Disarming the Disgruntled

May 12th 2015

Sometimes, the adage is true: it is lonely at the top.  It’s also loud, particularly when team members dislike your leadership decisions. You know what I’m talking about: bringing in a new partner or senior manager; firing a team member; changing the pay or leave structure; down-sizing those glorious cubicles. 

\r\n\r\n

Team members are more vocal and expressive than they were a generation ago. The challenge for leaders is to accept this as a given without assigning judgment to it. It’s incredibly easy (and tempting) to announce your decision and do one of two things:

\r\n\r\n
    \r\n
  1. Put on your tough guy hat and say, “If you don’t like it, you can leave.”
  2. \r\n
  3. Or, pull them into your office, counsel them on their behavior and say, “Look, I really need you to be a team player and get on board with this decision.” 
  4. \r\n
\r\n\r\n

In the first instance, deciding team members are expendable because they disagree with you means you might eventually end up with a firm of one. In the second, you can be sure the last thing team members care about is what you need when you’ve made a decision they view as unpleasant, unacceptable, or unwise. 

\r\n\r\n

Team members will display an array of behaviors when a decision they don't like comes down from the mountaintop. They may gossip, mutter loudly, or sulk. They might share their feelings on social media. They will certainly burn a lot of time and energy ruminating on your decision. Without question, that energy could and should be put to more productive activity. Everyone would be happier and your firm would be better off.

\r\n\r\n

You can improve the situation if you choose to initiate a useful conversation with a disgruntled team member, rather than hoping their behavior will magically disappear. Here are four methods you can use: 

\r\n\r\n
    \r\n
  1. Set your intention to preserve the relationship with the unhappy team member. Everything must flow from this if you want to keep him.
  2. \r\n
  3. Inquire, don’t accuse or mandate. Move gently into the conversation. Mention that you have noticed a change in behavior, and ask if it’s related to your recent decision. Let the conversation proceed from there. Listen. Feel your way. Remember : you want to preserve the relationship.
  4. \r\n
  5. Be clear in your thinking, because you have the right and the responsibility to decide for the firm. Don’t doubt this. But release your need for the team member to cheer you on and agree. Most likely, he won’t. The best you can hope for— at least for now — is his acceptance of your decision without further expressions of disgruntlement.
  6. \r\n
  7. Offer yourself as the sounding board and Reassurer-in-Chief. Encourage him to bring questions and concerns directly to you. If he trusted you before this decision, he might just do it.
  8. \r\n
\r\n\r\n

Leading is an exercise in discipline and sensitivity. This is never more true than when you introduce change to a team. Your response to their reactions is an important demonstration of your skill as a leader, and a strong indicator of your firm’s culture.

\r\n

leadership, communication, management

Comments



Leave empty