fired worker badmouthing company to current employees

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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.

{ 4 comments… read them below }

  1. HR Wench

    Depending upon the situation, like if it is really out of control, I might just have IT/telecom block her number.

    I’ve done that with really aggressive outside recruiters before.

  2. HR Godess

    I agree with AAM. Let your reputation speak for itself. No sense lowering yourself to this person’s level. If you handle yourself professionally, you won’t have to worry about what this person is saying about you.

  3. Just another HR lady...

    Funny that this person is focusing on HR (unless they’re a former HR employee), typically I’ve found that dismissed employees tend to focus on their former manager as the “villian” rather than HR, especially since HR is the one assisting them with all the aftermath of paperwork, questions, outplacement, etc.

    I would guess that the employees who are receiving the calls told you about them and that’s how you became aware? I would also guess that they came to you because they are uncomfortable about the situation and didn’t know what to do? If that’s the case, I would just advise those employees to let the dismissed employee know that the conversation makes them uncomfortable and that they would prefer that the person stopped calling them about work-related issues.

    Beyond that, I would probably just let the issue lie, unless there is something HR needs to do to rectify any complaints as AAM says.

  4. Terrance

    I was recently fired for insubordination through company email to other managers. My company claimed that I broke a rule. California EDD did not see it this way and awarded me unemployment. My former employer appealed and now I'm concerned. What makes the situation worse is that I spoke freely about collecting unemployment if they tried to fire me, in company emails. My supervisor and I had a very strained relationship in which many inappropriate comments were made to me by my former supervisor. One of which was sexual comments made about my wife in front of another manager and myself. I vented through email to the other managers in the district since HR told me that my boss was only trying to motivate using these tactics. The other managers use company email to vent on a regular basis. My former employer only came after me. If i have proof that the district manager made several inappropriate and job threatening comments toward me and other employees, will I have a problem in appeals?

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