Ask HR: Do I Tell HR About a Rude Boss?

By Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP February 12, 2021
Ask HR: Do I Tell HR About a Rude Boss?

SHRM President and Chief Executive Officer Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, is answering HR questions as part of a series for USA Today. 

Do you have an HR or work-related question you'd like him to answer? Submit it here.

I've noticed managers at my company will frequently yell or be condescending to their direct reports. What is the best course of action to take to remedy this unacceptable behavior? Anonymous

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: I'm sorry you've had to witness this inappropriate behavior in the workplace, but I'm glad you recognize what is taking place is unacceptable.

You mention supervisors in your organization yell and make condescending remarks to employees—and that's concerning. With nearly 1 in 5 people leaving a job due to poor workplace culture over the past five years, creating a supportive work environment is critical, especially as we navigate a changing landscape with new challenges and stressors at work.

That said, it's ultimately up to people managers and organizational leadership to set an example and lay the foundation for a positive and productive workplace culture. I have a couple of tips on how to flag the inappropriate behavior you're witnessing to your company's management team.

First, if you're not comfortable speaking with the supervisors directly, I recommend voicing your concerns to your HR staff. HR plays an instrumental role in bridging the gap between people managers and employees and is well-equipped to reinforce expectations for appropriate workplace behavior. 

When you speak with HR, be prepared to provide as much detail and be as transparent as possible. This could include providing information on what was said, the dates these interactions occurred and any references to your organization's policy on workplace conduct. It might not be the most comfortable conversation, but this information will help HR determine appropriate next steps and how to proceed.

If I've learned anything from my career in HR, it's that people managers should be held accountable for their actions and lead with empathy, respect and civility in the workplace—even if there are outside frustrations and emotions at play.

I applaud you for calling attention to this problematic behavior in your workplace. Your colleagues and management will likely appreciate that you proactively spoke out.


My company has asked us to return to work in the office and requires employees who want to continue working from home to provide a doctor's note. They want to know specifically what the underlying conditions are that would prevent us from returning to the office (and the conditions have to be listed on the CDC guidelines). My question is, does this violate some kind of HIPAA law? Anonymous

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: Thanks for writing. In short: No, your employer is not violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy rule.

Before I dive into the "why," I want to briefly share that HIPAA was established to protect individuals' medical records and personal health information. Importantly, the privacy rule only applies to employers' group health plans. This means a more detailed doctor's note to accommodate your telework request would not be a HIPAA violation.

It's not unusual for employers to request, or require, a doctor's note for an employee seeking telework accommodations. In fact, they're allowed to do this under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to determine an appropriate accommodation.

A doctor's note doesn't have to go too in depth, but it can outline the nature, severity and duration of your condition; any activity it limits; and the extent to which the condition limits your ability to perform your job duties.

Once your employer receives this information, they can decide what, if any, accommodations should be made for you. This could include remote work, flexible hours or a staggered shift schedule. Your employer may also take into consideration the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for underlying medical conditions and risks for COVID-19.

If you need an accommodation, I encourage you to comply with your employer's requests and provide a doctor's note. Otherwise, your employer could deny your accommodation request.

I'll add this: Don't be concerned about sharing your medical condition with your company. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, this information is confidential and cannot be shared with others in the organization.

Be well!



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