Hello! I've been at my organization for 2 years. My team had desktop computers until Summer 2018. At the time I asked HR the policy on letting them work from home from time to time and the answer was "No. They can't take their laptops home."

Fast forward to now and we've got a new HR head who thinks differently and says that I can use my discression  - especially during weather events. In the past if the office closed due to weather my team just got the day off . I got all this info on Monday morning and Monday afternoon was told the office would close Tuesday.

so I had the team meeting, I told them due to priorities and due to the fact we are short staffed that I was asking they work from home. And my staff was annoyed and I was anticipating that one person shut down completely. "5 years ago I was told it was illegal to bring my laptop home" I told her I didn't know why that was said only that this is the policy now. Then she said "well I don't have my internet working." I told her we could talk privately after the meeting - I was going to say don't worry about it have a great snow day. She informed me she didn't want to talk to me after the meeting. 

I didn't get many complaints about working from home from the rest of the staff - most were happy I had some flexibility. But my one staff member isn't talking. She isn't engaging in small talk, just talking when she needs too. Not sure how to proceed from here - we had a great relationship prior to this. I'm sure she feels like she was lied to for years and I can't fix that. I can only go off of the info I had. 


Chris Zeller's picture
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Hi Kristen,

If she's shut down that completely, it could be a sign that your relationship isn't as strong as you thought it was. That's ok -- this is a great opportunity to strengthen it. Treat the conversaiton as an exercise in communication and trust-building.

It's tough to know where she's coming from and you've acknowledged that you have limited information. I think Step 1 is to get more information and ask for her perspective. Ideally, this is in your next 1 on 1. If that's not feasible, a short meeting later this week works as well. Sooner is probably better, while it's fresh.

As you kick things off, do what you can to take the stress out of the situation. Something along the lines of "You're not in trouble" at the very beginning is probably a good idea. After that, consider making an observation that she seemed particualrly upset followed by a declaration that you care about her and were concerned that she was upset.

Then, you can say something along the lines of "What's going on?" or "Help me understand what happened on Monday." Hopefully she'll start talking and giving you the context that you need. If she stalls or seems stuck, you can use the old reliable "tell me more" or "I can see why you'd feel that way" or "what else?" to prompt further responses.

Once you have a handle on and have confirmed her perspective, you can respond. At the very least, thank her for sharing and avoid any words or actions that could be perceived as judgmental or punishment. Avoid the temptation to call her out or give her negative feedback for refusing discussion after Monday's meeting. It doesn't sound like you're there yet with her. Stick with contemporaneous notes in case this turns out to be the first instance of a pattern that will require further, more formal action down the line.