I'm an assistant manager at a small business, and I'm regularly the top manager on duty for a staff of two to four employees. Since we are a small business, the staff are able to chat when we aren't busy. This normally isn't a problem, but the topics one of my employees chooses to talk about at work have become very concerning. He sees nothing wrong with loudly sharing his opinions on sex, rape, and women's and LGBT issues with his coworkers. He is also extremely vulgar and will bad-mouth customers while they are in earshot.

I tried reporting him to my general manager (GM) after a particularly bad night when he tried to get a female employee to tell him about her first time having sex. The result was that he wasn't allowed to work with either of the employees that were working that night. My GM later reversed the decision, and told him it was just a joke. The employee now tries to mock me about the situation.

It has made making the employee schedule difficult as I have to try not to schedule him with anyone that might feed into him escalating to a misogynistic rant, and at the same time I don't feel comfortable scheduling him with any female employees. My GM hates this person, but never has to work with him. I'm not sure if she really knows the full scope of the problem.

I'm not sure what I can do in my position. I'm tired of having to babysit a full grown man that doesn't understand that there are somethings you're not allowed to talk about at work. I'm also afraid he is going to do something to get the company sued and cost me my job. I'm currently planning on asking my GM about how to reprimand employees, because I was never trained on how to go about that properly.

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    I assume "GM" is the general manager. Have you reported this employee to the general manager beyond the one time? Does this guy have some personal relationship with the general manager? It seems unlikely that a general manager would go out of his way to keep someone around that is insulting customers and employees, presumably resulting in lost sales, additional turnover, and the potential for legal action. Either the general manager isn't aware of the full scope of the problem or there is something more going on. Jun 11, 2015 at 20:41
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    Is your company large enough to have policies about this? Mine is, and we very clearly have a policy that says that sort of behavior is a fireable offense. All employees are supposed to have read and signed the policies, with copies on file.
    – shoover
    Jun 11, 2015 at 20:42
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    If you have lodged your complaint formally (or even in writing), then if the company does get sued, there is a fair chance that you would be protected. It wouldn't go well for the GM if there is evidence that he or she ignored the situation despite being notified. (I am not a lawyer!)
    – Jane S
    Jun 11, 2015 at 20:56
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    Why haven't you and the GM fired this employee yet? There's something I'm missing here, because it seems like that is the obvious solution... ?
    – enderland
    Jun 11, 2015 at 21:22
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    You are short staffed, might the reason be un unwelcoming work environment perhaps? Sometimes going one step back helps going several forward. Although in this case I don't see where firing one child equals one step back.
    – Luceos
    Jun 12, 2015 at 5:41

3 Answers 3


OK, first, as a first line supervisor, you do indeed need to have training on how to handle HR issues. You need to get with your boss and and HR immediately to find out the process. This is not just true for this problem but there are all manner of things which can come up. You need to know how to deal with theft and insubordination and failure to come to work etc. You also need to read any HR manual that your company has from cover to cover.

Check your employee handbook and see if there is a policy on discussing things of a sexual nature at work. If there is not, write one up and submit it to the GM or HR as a suggested policy change. It is a lot easier to confront someone on poor behavior if there is a written policy.

Once you have a written policy in place, and you know the steps for reprimanding someone, call him into a meeting, tell him that his behavior is unacceptable and that if it does not immediately stop, he will be subject to getting fired. Give him exactly the warnings your HR requires, no more and no less. In the US, many states allow firing for no reason and it is often easier to do that than to document the problem. That usually means that you may have to pay unemployment though, so the HR team will tell you how they would want you to handle this. If your policies are in place and followed to the letter, you can likely get away with firing this person for cause and not have to play unemployment.

Next document the types of comments he makes, and include the date and time and if there were customers/members of the opposite sex present, and send that document to the GM. In this case the longer and more detailed the list, the better. Don't lie and make it worse than it is.

Tell him exactly what you have told us, that the person is making employees and customers uncomfortable. Ask him for what specific actions you need to take to deal with this person. Remind the GM that you have a small team and that scheduling around his potty mouth is becoming difficult. (Of course in setting schedules, I would give him the least favorable ones since he is the person causing the issue.) Remind the GM that there can be legal consequences for failing to rein in this type of workplace harassment. Likely once he sees a detailed list, they guy is going to be gone.

Likely the guy told the GM he was just joking and that is why he backed off on this. You need to establish that this is a pattern of behavior not a one-time joke.

If one of your other employees quits before you can get this process rolling, make sure she gets an exit interview and a chance to say that his behavior caused to her leave. Don't ask for it directly, but if she volunteers it, make sure the GM knows that too. Especially if the person who quits is top performer.


The employee is not working well with with other employees. He is driving away customers with his mouth. He is giving you a full blown headache when it comes to you trying to schedule him in a way that does the least damage to either the staff or the customer relationship. These are more than enough justifications for immediate termination.

You are being remiss in not disclosing to the GM the full scope of the problem and you are allowed the employee to get away with his behavior by making light of the damage that he has done.

Get off the couch and lay out the facts to the GM and let the GM draw the conclusion that it is imperative that the employee be terminated. Preferably immediately. Enough is enough.

If the GM gives him one last chance, assign him to work with a female employee whom you know to be a tough cookie. Warn her before hand that you are assigning him to work with him and the does or says anything untoward, to let you know ASAP of time, date, circumstance and witnesses and that you'll have him terminated. Again, enough is enough. He's pushed the envelope once too many.


First and foremost find out from HR what the process is for firing someone. It usually involves warnings and time for improvement. Could you backdate it? Yes, but you'd be better off not to. Get on it as soon as you can, then sit down and have the employee sign the paperwork saying he agrees to improve if that's the process.

If it's truly egregious behavior and you have multiple complaints from Customers/Employees at this time AND they're documented, I would have a meeting and tell him flat out that he will be fired if any more complaints come in. Make sure you point out that not one more complaint can come in. Have him sign documentation saying he agrees. Not to sound too critical but from what you say, it seems like he's the type of person that may walk out because of that alone or run his mouth again within the next few days. Keep in mind that this qualifies as insubordination if not insolence.

As for your GM, you should make every effort to contact him/her regarding this. Let them know that this is causing scheduling conflicts, unease with your employees, and disgusted, adverse reactions from the customers. If he's not on board with disciplinary action at that point I, personally, would document the refusal and go through the steps to fire the unruly employee anyway. It's your job to protect your employees as their manager and make it a safe and ethical place for consumers as well.

Bottom line: your GM may not be willing to do their job, but you should be willing to do yours.

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