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Question 

We are a financial firm in the City with around 100 staff and I started my role as reception manager last month.

Everything seemed fine during the interview process, and I was very excited to be joining the company. I have a team of three receptionists two of whom are very friendly and helpful. The third receptionist (lets call her April, which is not her name) I realised may be difficult to win over from the start, there was a certain amount of frostiness when I first asked her to cover a different shift. 

By the second week I realised there was a big issue with April’s attitude when being managed. Any time I asked her to do something there would be a big role of the eyes with a sigh. Also I had; ‘we don’t usually work like this’ on a regular basis and “that’s not how we are used to doing things”.  I had also been told “they had not had a direct manager for six months, and they really didn’t need managing now’.  She is late for work regularly, doesn’t smile at guests, spends most of the time searching online shops for clothes, and it’s demoralising the other two. April has been there for five years, and I’ve heard from the other two receptionists that she had begun a relationship with the CEO around two years ago.  He’s not married, and there is no problem with that, except.. it’s obviously very difficult to take her through a disciplinary process. The CEO waits for her after work some nights and they leave together. 

HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Answer

Usually in these situations it depends on the seniority of the person they are in a relationship with (yours can’t be much more tricky). When a supervisor dates an employee it is never private and when a romance blooms at work… especially with the head of the company—it’s disruptive to others, with questions regarding fairness, favouritism,  credibility and accountability. The distraction can tear into the strongest reception team. 

HR in most cases can/should back you up. Try to get April to realise she’s letting the team down with her behaviour. Try to win her over, but I know from what you have written it’s unlikely this will work.

If HR don’t seem to be helping and your own position could be in danger if you take her through a disciplinary process.

Then you have two choices.

Either

Option one
Sit out your time there, trying not to cause many waves – for as long as you can, keeping the peace, keeping your job, while not getting too stressed (and search for a new position elsewhere).

Option two
Go to battle. If you choose this option… Make sure you document everything/anything important you tell her to do, and her responses. Email her requests so you have her answers on your computer – documented as evidence of her replies. It may be you have to build up a case over a period of time. Obviously document verbal warnings… you can’t make any mistakes with the process. Most importantly – seek professional advice from an HR specialist.