Our office assistant has a lot going on personally with a sick family member and stress. She is openly verbal about her personal issues. I offer a confirming ear sometimes daily.

At the same time, everything at work is negative. She complains about all the little stuff to anyone who will listen. She is constantly speaking ill of other employees to other employees. Her communication had lessened regarding missing deadlines on important tasks which directly affects other departments. She makes snide remarks and slams doors and has become hostile.

When I confronted her regarding the unnecessary comments stating its not acceptable to open my office door, make a snide remark and slam my door while I was on a customer call she started crying. I asked if she was ok? She said she feels like she can't do anything right and she isn't going to make it here. She can't get projects done and it's too much work. My boss spoke to her as well and she cried. We both tried to be rational asking for the same things to make sure we were on the same page. For example, we said if you have a task that isn't completed you need to communicate it so we can assign another team member or re-prioritize for the following week. Her response with us both was an emotional "I feel"...

The last person in the position doing the exact same task worked 15-20 hours. She does far less and is at 32 plus overtime. I would like to look for another assistant because I don't think this one will stay/ or we can make her productive and happy.

Any tips?

Update- she was hired by my boss to complete admin duties. The previous position did data entry projects and errands. I did not hire her but am expected to provide her with work and manage those projects. My boss gives her other projects to complete.

My question is should I look for another assistant? How can I repair this relationship? How can I speak to someone who is not rational and only cries and talks about their feelings when I present issues with completing her work.

  • 1
    Does this office assistant work for you? Sep 27 '16 at 17:00
  • 2
    What exactly is your question?
    – David K
    Sep 27 '16 at 17:09

You can't make a person like this "productive and happy".

It's really not your job to get involved in her personal life. In fact, I suggest you steer well clear of that, because even good intentions can get you into a lot of hot water if you're not careful.

However it is very much your job to address her complete lack of professionalism and productivity, which at this point - I think - equates to getting HR involved.

We each have personal issues which might spill over into the workplace - it happens. However, acting the way she does is completely unacceptable, and having a tough time with a family member is no justification.

Since you've already tried reasoning with her, and have expressed that she needs to improve her ways to no avail, it's clearly time for a professional to deal with this person. HR should probably put this person on a performance improvement plan, or some kind of medical leave while she deals with her personal issues.

Either way, you should request a stable, professional, and productive assistant, because at this point it sounds like you're helping her more than the other way around.

  • This is not a good answer. The behaviour of this employee looks a lot like mentally ill - depression. Check Michael's answer.
    – Mr Me
    Sep 28 '16 at 12:21
  • @MrMe - actually, both our answers come down to the same thing: talk to HR and get a new assistant. How HR does so is their problem. Also, I sincerely doubt that Shaw is a psychologist, so whether the "characteristics ... sound like clinical depression" or not is not an established fact. On the surface she's a troubled, and under-performing employee who has stepped over many professional boundaries. HR can take it from there.
    – AndreiROM
    Sep 28 '16 at 13:02
  • there is one very important difference between our answers. you are treating it as conduct issue Sep 28 '16 at 14:38
  • 1
    @MichaelShaw - because from the POV of the OP that's what it is. As a layman (someone who is not a psychologist) all i know is that this employee is simply behaving erratically, and making my life difficult. I can't speak as to whether this person has emotional or psychological issues, but I can certainly speak as to their professionalism and work performance, and those are both lacking. As such, I inform HR, and they take it from there. Whether that person is then fired, or seeks professional help is none of my business, hence my advice to stay out of her personal life.
    – AndreiROM
    Sep 28 '16 at 15:03

The characteristics you describe sound a lot like clinical depression. It is generally better to approach HR with "concern about her well being" rather than treating it as a conduct issue. The end result may well be that they are given medical leave until they are well enough to perform their work duties.

In the US, FMLA provide a basis for their job to be legally protected if they are able to recover their health sufficiently within 3 months.

In England, doctors can sign people off work until they recover sufficiently to work and employers can only end employment contracts if there is no realistic prospect of the employee returning to work within a "reasonable" time frame.

Depression is medical condition that is protected under disability legislation in Europe, so be careful about terminating contracts for conduct when depression is involved.

  • +1. Just as a note: in the US while FMLA can be obtained for depression, many people don't know this. Unfortunately, there is also still a stigma attached to it by some. If it is needed though, the proper treatment can do a world of good.
    – SeraM
    Sep 27 '16 at 18:13
  • That's a good add. May I include that in the answer? Sep 27 '16 at 18:22
  • Of course, Michael.
    – SeraM
    Sep 27 '16 at 19:12

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