It Seems There's Always A Surprise

It Seems There's Always A Surprise

Recently, I visited a client’s office as part of an ongoing HR consulting assignment. A part-time employee we’ll call Kathy revealed during a casual conversation that she always secretly records conversations with her supervisor. And, she said it was a common practice among most of the office staff to record conversations with superiors.

This is not a company that has any significant problems. No turnover. No formal complaints. I was surprised. The owner was too. She decided that we should interview the office employees and find out what was going on.

For those of you wondering, some states, like California, require all parties to a conversation to consent its recording. Other states, like Ohio, require that only one participant in the conversation consent. And, no, this company did not have a policy about recording conversations in the workplace.

But neither the law nor a policy would have solved or prevented the problem from taking hold. The problem, as revealed by the interviews, was that the supervisor was no longer trusted by Kathy or a couple of the other employees. It seems that the supervisor had been showing favoritism to one of the employees and, when confronted by Kathy or others she became defensive and, presumably in an effort to protect herself, her management style became more and more dictatorial. All of which cascaded into a festering and growing discontent.

But for a coincidental comment made by Kathy, we would not have known about the breakdown that was becoming a problem. At first, the owner identified the recording of conversations as the problem and wanted to do something about it. But, through a little training and making a couple of operational adjustments, there is no more recording. Not because the owner forbids it but because the employees no longer feel the need to protect themselves by recording their conversations.