our employee is taking nude photos in our office and posting them to Facebook

A reader writes:

I am the office manager of a small (two additional employees, two doctors, and one therapist) health practice. One employee, who I will call Jane, has worked there for over 10 years and handles billing, front desk, and bookkeeping.

Jane is recently divorced and seems to be going through a mid-life crisis of sorts with an obsession on finding new sex partners. She lists our company name as her place of employment on Facebook and some of our patients are her “friends.” We found out through our other employee (who I will call Mary) and our therapist (who I will call Sara) that Jane is now a member of several Facebook groups where people can post suggestive to explicit photos and videos. When we first learned of this, we let Jane know that we were aware and asked her to take anything that linked her Facebook account to us out of her profile or to create an alternate account for her extracurricular activities that we wanted to remain separate as her personal business. She became irate, saying that our awareness of it created a “hostile work environment” for her. She also threatened to sue Mary for informing us. But then some time passed and she seemed to calm down.

In the past few days, however, it was brought to my and the doctors’ attention that not only is Jane continuing to post these things, she is taking and posting the photos daily from our business. Our company bathroom is in the background of some of them as well as the office her and I share (I am in the office part-time). One of the photos described to me is a full photo of her standing in front of my desk with her pants around her ankles. The time stamps show that it is during work hours (there are times each day where she is the only employee in the office).

I am at a loss for how to handle this appropriately and what to do. She even invited a patient who works at a business in our center to be a member of one of the groups. Obviously her doing this from work and involving anything linked to the office has got to stop. Yesterday she went to use the bathroom (which is private) at least four times, staying in there for over 10 minutes each time with her phone in hand and all I could do was picture what she could be doing in there.

Given her experience and high degree of responsibility, it would be an enormous task to replace her, and believe it or not otherwise her job performance is very good. Any advice at all as to how to handle this would be greatly appreciated.

You get to draw the line at people taking nude photos in your office. That’s not okay, and you don’t need to tip-toe around that with her.

And you know, one day Jane will leave of her own volition, and then you will have the work of replacing her at that point anyway. So don’t be held hostage to your fear of having to do that now, to the point that you tolerate totally unacceptable behavior in your office.

Sometimes you need to be willing to let someone go. An employee taking nude photos of herself in your office — in front of your desk! — and posting them to Facebook, where she’s connected with some of your clients, is one of those times.

This would be bizarrely bad judgment under any circumstances, but it’s even odder because Jane knows that you know about her involvement with the explicit-photo groups. You’ve already told her that your business can’t be associated with it. And after that conversation, she seems to have escalated the behavior by posing for the photos in your office. Frankly, it almost seems like a compulsion or an act of hostility toward your office, or both.

It would be 100% reasonable to tell Jane that this needs to stop immediately and all photos taken in your office need to be removed, and that this will be her last warning on the topic and you’ll part ways with her if it continues.

It would also be entirely reasonable to decide that Jane has already demonstrated such terrible judgment that you’re not going to go through a warning process and instead will part ways now. You don’t owe someone a warning and a second chance when something is this egregious (or at least you don’t as long as your own internal policies don’t require it).

To be clear, the issue isn’t that Jane is sharing nude photos of herself in her personal life. That’s her business. The issue originally was that she was connected to clients while doing it, and the issue now is that she’s doing it <i>at work. Keep the focus there.

But before you can do any of that, you need to convince yourself that the fact that it’ll be a pain to replace her isn’t a reason not to take action on something like this. You can’t let your organization be held hostage to that. (And really, how far does that go? What if she starts slapping your logo on these nude photos? ) There’s a point where someone’s behavior just isn’t okay, and this is at that point.

And in case you need it — hostile workplace: it’s not what you think.

our employee is taking nude photos in our office and posting them to Facebook was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.


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