A Plea to Managers – respond to the signs.

David, the owner of a company with seventy staff contacted me via LinkedIn last week to ask my advice on a particular problem that has been brought to his attention. He has just received the third complaint this year from members of the company’s most successful sales team; each has been about Rick, their manager, and his methods of motivation and his abuse of his organisational power over his staff team.

He was a little reluctant to upset Rick, after all he has maintained incredible results and productivity, despite the company’s general sales flat lining. David had decided not to disturb the team’s balance or work patterns; in fact, he has done nothing except contact me for advice.

At this point, I am reminded of a line from a story my father used to tell me. “When one person tells you you look like a monkey, ignore them. When a second person tells you you look like a monkey, ignore them too. However, when a third person tells you that you look like a monkey, surely it’s time to consult a mirror”. Perhaps this little adage works at some levels to ensure self-esteem and personal wellbeing, but in management, ignore the first accusation at your peril.

What could it be that makes Rick’s team so successful? It seems that they are currently working at maximum output (or perhaps even beyond), and are therefore motivated. I have seen teams before working to unsustainable levels with the manager using fear as the fuel for their output. In the short to medium term this looks good, but will certainly result in burn-out and team implosion.

Managers can lead their teams to achieve incredible output if a short term goal is being sought. “We need to get this order out by Friday, I know it is going to be hard, but if we all pull together, we should be able to achieve it”. By so saying, this hypothetical manager will be working alongside the team to perform. Perhaps longer than usual hours will be put in, but this manager is likely to reward team members and there is unlikely to be grievances made to senior staff.

I can guess Rick’s motivational talk. “You know that your jobs are on the line, which means mine is too. If we maintain our position as the top team any redundancies will come from elsewhere. You’re just going to have to work harder and get better results. It’s a time to push, push, push!” This seems OK, but for how long can people work at maximum output? My guess is not too long.

David ignored the first and second complaints. These should have been signposts suggesting not all is well in Team A. He is obliged to take each complaint seriously, investigate them and offer support where necessary. I am not for one moment suggesting that Rick is a bad manager, he has just resorted to abrasive behaviours in order to achieve. I suggest that most managers do at some time or another.

I will be offering David a series of workshops for all the company’s sales teams on how to improve output without threat or other negative behaviour. Certainly for Rick, a coaching course from the “Men in Management” or “Leading from Within” programmes would be of benefit to help him develop improved motivational skills.

Let’s see where this one goes.

About equalityedge

I run Equality Edge and its unique and creative "Working with Difference" project. It supports employers and managers in gaining a competitive and cost saving advantage from meeting equality and diversity best practice obligations. Coaching and workshops are used to deliver organisational, team and leadership development, assisting in improving communication and the understanding of the impact difference has on workplace behaviour.
This entry was posted in beyond diversity, Bullying & Harassment, discrimination, Equality & Diversity, human rights, inequality, management, Uncategorized, workplace bullying and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to A Plea to Managers – respond to the signs.

  1. Alan Ogrizovic says:

    There is so little factual evidence here it would in my view be dangerous to pre-judge or even begin to formulate a view. Perhaps you have information that you haven’t shared in this article, but I would require a much deeper insight into whats happenning within the team to have a view.

  2. Kevin Tukei says:

    Alan Orgrizovic, I think your being too technical here. I think The author is targeting a general view.

  3. Ed Ariniello says:

    Each opportunity to improve teamwork, employee morale and results must be addressed in a manner appropriate for the stage and situation. The earlier “complaint” or “comment” could result in a simple follow up with Rick and a few other employees, even casually at the “water cooler:” “Hey Rick, gee your team is doing great, I am really impressed with a few really high performers, what do you think they are doing to make the program so successful?” From this a owner/manager/leader is training, teaching coaching and showing the way to being rewarded for the right things.

    On the second complaint or comment a similar approach may also lead to a casual sit down at Rick’s desk or the manager’s office as Rick walks by. “Rick, how’s it going out there? Rick if he is leaning towards to complaint side of management style will illustrate this through some “I” or negative comments, even some blaming tendencies. Through this conversation the manger can coach him towards the best direction, complimenting certain achievements, showing how to give credit to others, encouraging team work, maybe even asking him to pick a few team members to stop by and share their successes. Rick will then have the opportunity to adjust and step to a new level on the leadership ladder.

    If through this style of management and coaching the complaints or comments continue or escalate the manager has laid some ground work to take the discussion to a more impactful level of intensity and focus. “Rick, I am really impressed with the performance of you and your team on the sales results side of things. Thank you. I’d like to make sure we are nurturing and building the best, most loyal team and company we can.” Form here the conversation and following actions can guide the manager. If Rick responds well, that’s great. If not, things sputter, improve and decline, or just decline, then other steps must be taken.

    Finally, a few key points: Leaders always have targets on their backs; a team is not successful only because of one person. A team “driven to achieve over their capacity and at the cost of their morale will fall. A team is most successful when they achieve and consistently renew the synergies necessary for sustainable high morale.


    • equalityedge says:

      Hi Ed

      I completely agree with you at some level. David, as he said, did not want to upset the working of his best team, but here in the UK (I suspect from your answer you are US based) there are legislative standards that employers have to meet in order not to “bully” their staff. It should have been his immediate response at first complaint to check out the situation.

      If any of the complainants leave the company they would likely be successful in a tribunal claim against their employer for constructive dismissal. This can be a very costly process with fines, compensation and legal fees, sometime totalling many thousands of pounds. David’s position should be to minimise this possibility. He has to respond to the complaint.

      I am certain that Rick is unaware of his managerial shortcomings and need to be educated as quickly as possible. Abrasive management (or bullying, if you prefer) is unacceptable in any workplace. Workers must be protected from this sort of treatment and although I like your “softly, softly approach” I do not think it would be enough intervention to mitigate against losing a tribunal hearing.

      Many thanks for your input. I think it would be a great subject to look at various case studies from each side of the Atlantic. The US seems to be more protective of employers, whilst here in the UK we are more supportive of the employee.

  4. I think it’s incredibly important that this manager speak both to Rick, the people complaining AND all the people who haven’t complained: when you’re looking to get a fair temperature check of someone’s management skills, I would imagine that you would want to ensure that it’s a majority view – I don’t know how big Rick’s team is, but what if all the others think he’s fantastic and are really engaged? What if those three bear a grudge, for some reason?

    So, at root, I absolutely agree with you – this manager should have listened to the first person who complained – and then spoken to (or observed) all the others.

  5. Ann Chad says:

    I agree with the comments that refer to the guidlelines set by the Organisation’s
    “Complaints Policy” which offers a first opportunity to discuss the matter verbally with person complained against. This can result in sorting things out before it all goes too far. David should not reveal the names of the complainants without their permission,

    Unfortunately bullies enjoy the power that they can exert over other people, often having been bullied themselves. However Rick maybe be extremely stressed and worried about reaching the targets/expectations that the Orgnanisation, or perhaps David himsel, has set and Rick is driving himself as well as his team too hard.

    David should talk to Rick generally about the overall work plan etc, ask Rick for his opinion and try to gauge his response.Then David should lead into the fact that some members of his team have spoken to him and are unhappy with the way in which they are being managed and that this needs to be addressed by Rick. Rick will be defensive perhaps angry and this could be revealing! David should then check with the complainants to see if there have been any changes. If not the next stage could result in a written complaint and written warning..

Leave a Reply to equalityedge Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s