I am a supervisor and have a problem that I’ve never heard about before. A woman called me at work and would not leave her name. She said that she was a “close friend” to one of my employees and that the employee was battling depression so severe that she was a danger to herself and to others. She would not give me her name, claiming she was afraid of my employee and did not want her name in any records. The employee in question has worked for me for nearly two years. She has never caused any problems at work. She does a good job, she’s dependable and is pleasant to be around. Should I take some sort of action?
Yes, you should take some action. Throw your telephone out the window. Anonymous calls are interfering with your concentration.
— Evil Skippy
You should not disregard information solely because it comes from an anonymous source. Base your strategy on what you have observed and experienced in the workplace. If your employee has not seemed upset or unusually moody at work, the anonymous call is not as serious as it would be if you had observed odd behavior on the job. (The call would also be more credible if the caller had identified herself. Staying anonymous means it is possible that the call came from someone with a personal agenda against your employee.)
Here is what I would do in your place. If I had noticed warning signs of depression or some sort of personal problem (erratic behavior, change in attendance, moodiness, etc.), I would talk to Human Resources and with them encourage the employee to utilize the Employee Assistance Program (or get some counseling on her own). If I did not notice any problems at work, I would inform my employee of the anonymous call.
In addition, I would “take the pulse” of my department. Without revealing any details about the anonymous call or focusing any attention on the employee, talk to the people in your department and ask them if they have any concerns about anything at work. (The “at work” part is essential so you do not get burdened with venting about the latest development on American Idol or in presidential primaries). Of course, you should be monitoring your department by “taking the pulse” like this even if you had not received an anonymous report.
Last but not least, let your boss and H.R. know about the call. Document what you did in response to receiving it and why you did (or did not) take action(s).
Readers – what do you do in response to anonymous reports?