A reader writes:
How would you deal with a terminated employee who keeps calling active employees here on the job to speak badly about HR? It is sadly at the point where she is making things up and defaming the abilities of the HR team by spreading rumors. Any advice?
I would probably do nothing.
If you try to prevent her from reaching your employees, you’ll look heavy-handed and like you have something to hide. It will actually add credence to her story, which is the opposite of what you want.
Let her rant. You’ll be taking the high road, many employees are going to be annoyed by her, and she’ll end up discrediting herself in the eyes of a lot of people. Who wants to be called at work by a former coworker who wants to complain about HR? Most people are going to think she should move on.
But here are two subpoints to consider:
1. If there’s any grain of truth to what she’s saying, make sure you do consider whatever her beef is and decide if you should be doing anything differently. Don’t discount her points just because of the way she’s handling herself.
2. If you feel you have to do something, you could make your managers aware of your side of the story so they can combat any rumors among their own staff. One of the really annoying things about terminations is sometimes you’ll get an employee who complains loudly about being “unfairly” treated, telling coworkers the firing came out of nowhere and had no grounds, while you know her performance was abysmal and she was given numerous warnings and chances to improve. Since very few people tell their coworkers, “Wow, I’m really doing a bad job” or “I did get three warnings before they let me go,” the fired person’s coworkers often have no idea that the firing was handled fairly and was for good cause … and because of privacy concerns, the manager usually isn’t going to announce the details, so coworkers often hear just one, twisted side of the story. One way to combat this is to fill your managers in on the other side, and then figure they’ll at least be able to give others the sense that there’s another side of the story.
But really, I’d probably advise doing nothing. If your remaining employees know the company to be fair, that personal experience is going to carry more weight than the rantings of one disgruntled former employee.