At work I supervise a small group of people in a highly specialised field (we are the only people in the state who do this type of work). I am the supervisor of this group and not the manager of the company.
Whilst I am certainly not a professional manager (my own background being technical), historically I have done this job in a manner which seems to have impressed both senior management (they handed me a pay rise without me even mentioning it as an issue so they are presumably happy) and most employees most of the time.
But a persistent problem keeps coming up with one individual. At any given time, they always seem to have someone as a "target" and work to convince others as to how bad this individual really is. This has gone on for 10 years or so (noting that I have only been the supervisor since this year) and most in the group have at some point been the target. Right now, I'm the target but if I wasn't then someone else would be.
Personally, I see it as whinging since the issues raised by them are almost always of a relatively minor nature of the kind that most people would have with colleagues from time to time. If I had such an issue with someone then I would simply approach them (in private) and discuss the matter openly. Odds are they didn't even realise they were doing it.
But not with this person. They raise, for example, an issue about safety. So I devote resources to fixing the problem to the point of brining in (incredibly expensive) outside expertise. But then they say the outside expert isn't 100% safe, says one thing whilst doing another and can't be trusted. So I meet with the hired expert, discuss the problem and convince them that they had better do the job properly or we'll get someone else and that I will be monitoring their performance.
Problem fixed and all seem to be happy with the result. "Well done, thanks" say the other workers. The problem is fixed. But the problem individual still isn't happy - now I'm some nasty, horrible person for threatening the external contractor with loss of future work if they don't do it properly.
Just can't win... Don't fix the problem and I'm in the wrong for not looking after the workers. Do fix the problem and I'm in the wrong for not looking after the contractor (who is supposedly dishonest etc according the the problem individual). Not only that, but I'm wrong if people aren't safe but I'm also wrong for doing a trial of methods to resolve the issue. Can't win either way it seems.
All the consultants we have used, internal experts from other sections of the organisation, the union and even the government safety regulators say I've done everything reasonable to make sure things are safe and that this goes well beyond minimum legal requirements for safety.
But safety is just an example. We went through the exact same problems with pay. Don't do anything and I'm a "company man", try to do something and I'm to blame for that too. They're not happy with people doing the same work being paid different rates but when I try to fix that I'm to blame for trying to get a larger % rise for the lower paid ones than the higher paid ones so as to fix their original complaint. Just can not win.
Don't tell this person what's going on and they complain about secrecy. Tell them what's going on and they say, in a sarcastic voice, "we do know what we're doing you know". Just can't win either way.
Now, I don't have the authority to sack this individual without proving they've actually done something wrong (and simply complaining doesn't really meet the company criteria for dismissal).
Anyone have any advice as to what to do about this? I want to actually fix the problem with this person rather than simply getting them to pick another target (either working for us or somewhere else).