Last week Friday, one of the members of my housing team woke up and chose violence.
She is a recent hire. Joined the team last October.
I was on the fence about hiring her. It wasn’t an immediate yes for me. My supervisor was tired of interviewing so she made the decision.
Last Thursday morning I texted her to let her know that field days were cancelled until further notice. Field days are days that the housing team spend out of the office obtaining new housing listings and landlord/broker contacts. I suspended field days because they did not appear to be fruitful. This particular staff member would return after field days and not have any new listings and/or contacts.
So I texted her at 6:30am and asked her to report to the site. Of course, she didn’t respond and she didn’t report to the office.
I made up my mind that day that I was going to have a meeting with her on Friday. I have been giving her a very wide berth. She is going through a lot in her personal life. I knew from the many phone calls that I had to tell her to take outside because they were inappropriate for the office. She is trying to regain custody of her children and is at war with their father’s family. She is on the outs with her own family. She needed a break. I tried to give her that break. She was rough around the edges…but I wanted to work with her. She had the passion. She had the stamina. She had the knowledge of how the system works.
That was the meeting that I wanted to have with her on Friday. I wanted to address the weaknesses and strategize on how to improve. Offer any assistance that I could. Encourage her to keep going. To keep learning. Keep improving herself.
She woke up on Friday and chose violence.
When I walked into the office on Friday morning, she was in the room alone. She was on the phone with someone and the conversation was heated. She was talking about the job and how she was unhappy with the way things were going and the environment. She was yelling and using profanity, so I walked to her cubicle, tapped on the glass and motioned for her to bring it down because we were in the office. I didn’t tell her to leave because it was just the two of us here. Maybe that wasn’t the right thing to do but…fuck it. We’re all going through shit. Most days, I spend a portion of my day crying in my office. The world is fucked right now. So I let her rock. But then she started getting louder. And more upset. The content of the conversation told me that she’d had a run in with someone at work and it didn’t go well. I went back to her cubicle and asked her to come talk to me. She told me that she couldn’t because the way she felt emotionally would probably result in her saying something that she would regret. That’s the nice way to put what she actually said. She said that it would be best for her to leave. I stood out of the way as she stormed through the door because as understanding as I am, had she lashed out and hit me, I’d have been posting this from jail. Happily.
That’s the way MY emotions are set up nowadays.
Anyway, she left and I immediately contacted the Business Manager to ask what my next steps were since she did walk off the job. I was instructed to contact Human Resources. I contacted Human Resources and a brief conversation with a guy. I explained that the staff member was having a rough day and that she was going through something. I told him I wasn’t trying to get her into any trouble and would like a chance to talk with her to find out what’s going on before making it an HR matter. I did need to address the fact that she walked off because her time sheet will reflect the missing hours. He said he understood and told me to document her leaving the site and then try to engage her when she returned on Monday.
After speaking with HR, I texted the staff member these words:
“Ms. B…I know you’re going through personal things right now and I understand that completely. Please do give me a call when you calm down and are able to talk. We all fall victim to the weight of personal issues sometimes. Even me. You have to take care of you first. I know you’re planning on sending this big email and whatnot but lets have a conversation first. I may be able to offer assistance without all of the bells and whistles.”
I sent that to her at 10:56am.
I was finally able to go to the restroom at about 3pm that day. I took both my phones because the bathroom is situated so far from my office, I tend to make a list of things to do once I travel that way before I return to my office. While I was in the bathroom, my phones started going crazy.
The first call came from the Business Manager.
“Girl, did you see your email?”
I hung up with the Business Manager and went to my email. Standing in the bathroom, I started the email. All was well until I got to the line that read “Nigga, I was burnt out!” I scrolled line after cringe-worthy line of the email from the housing staff member that went on and on with allegations, blame, foul language, etc, etc, etc. This email went to the ENTIRE main office…CEO included. It went to my entire building…from the Executive Director to the Porters.
The next call came from the new Executive Director.
“Uhhhhhhh….have you read your email?”
As I’m standing in the bathroom, I can hear the building buzzing. Staff is going in and out of the Safety Director’s office with the general greeting:
“YOOOOOOOOOO…did you see that email?!”
I stood in the bathroom and waited. Waited as staff continued to talk about the email and to ask where I was so that they could see my reaction. Waited while the Safety Director tried multiple times to reach me in my office.
The third call came from the previous Executive Director.
“MY girl….what the hell is going on over there?!”
She informed me that the IT Department was trying frantically to delete the email and to shut the housing staff’s email.
I waited in the bathroom until there was silence. Then I crept into the Safety Director’s office. Just to breathe.
I got back to my office and started to panic.
I knew that HR would be on a hunt for answers. This level of decompensation would need an explanation. I was worried because I hadn’t done the 3 month evaluation for this staff member as instructed because….I didn’t want to fire her. I didn’t want to discourage her with a negative evaluation. That’s not the type of supervisor I am. If I told the truth in my evaluation, I would have been forced to terminate. If I lied on the evaluation and then it didn’t work out with the staff member, HR would give me hell trying to separate from her.
But then I relaxed. I had extended every courtesy to this staff member. If anything, I coddled her. Let HR come for me. I’m ready.
Facing the rest of my staff was hard though. The Case Managers were offended by the email as she stated that they weren’t doing any work. It caused a divide in the team in that the Case Managers now feel unappreciated and the other members of the housing team feel like they’re doing all of the work. They must be, right? If this one staff member was so overwhelmed that she sent this email to everyone?
She was terminated on Monday. She texted me last night stating that she’d just gotten out of the hospital and wanted to know the status of her position at the agency. I directed her to HR. That’s above my pay grade now.
I wish she had just waited to send the email. I know she had to have gotten my text. I sent it a whole FOUR HOURS before her message. We could have talked. We could have come to a middle ground.
She woke up that morning and chose violence.