Life issues can mirror workplace investigations

I have been struggling with a middle school teacher/student relationship all school year. No, I am not a school administrator…I am the student’s father. We have all heard that parents being involved in their child’s education can help them do better in school and succeed so here is my struggle.

Good Communication is Critical

There seems to be a communication gap in this triangle. My child is constantly telling me how this teacher singles him out and treats him unfairly. The teacher says he is overreacting and that I should come sit through one of his classes to observe. His response, of course, is that she will be on her best behavior if I attend class. He said he’s seen it before with other kids’ parents attending.

Given that he has no real problems with other teachers I am not so inclined to believe the teacher; but on the other hand, middle school age kids are typically in the midst of an identity crisis, finding their limits and questionable when it comes to using their best  judgement.

Be Careful Playing Favorites – Mediators Must Remain Neutral

Now, most parents will want to believe their own child, trust them and back them up when it comes to a “he said she said” scenario, right? Well, on top of that I just watched a program on television in which teachers accused of being hostile or verbally abusive were secretly video taped. Is that legal? We’ll soon find out if we follow that case on television.

So here I am, of course, being forced to take sides. My gut tells me if there is no other documentation, or secret videos, that I must rat out the teacher. Afterall, I’ve taught my child how to behave and I believe he would do the right thing. But how does this help his grade? I believe that a teacher who has been ratted out will discretely discriminate, whether she is guilty or not.

Retaliation is Not Always Obvious

We do our best to coach the child through to the end of the year or get them transferred to a situation where they will not face judgement. We must do similar things with employees when we have workplace incidents to investigate. We must be fair, find out as many facts as possible and protect confidentiality while at the same time keeping an eye out for the discrete retaliation that is no doubt going to happen in many instances.

Create a Plan to Catch The Problems Early – Save Headaches

When working in Human Resources we are usually pulled into these situation after things have escalated out of control. If we educate our supervisors to refer to HR more about every little issue we will tend to head-off those escalated incidents and undetectable, “under-the-radar” retaliations.

While the tendency is to empower supervisors to fix the problems themselves, if we don’t train them properly or if they are still new to confronting those complex employee issues, by all means, encourage them to get HR’s help.

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