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Submitted by Jim Clark on


I am six month into a manufacturing organization as a director of their service center. This organization is family owned with a reported culture of family, empowerment and accountability. This service center has grown over that last year 10 fold due to increased retail business.

With the rapid growth in business and personnel, processes and accountability have been lacking. I believe this was one of the major reasons I was brought on board. I started with one-on-ones with my directs, and had them do the same. The usual pushback was experienced, i.e. cubicles weren't private, etc., but I persisted. I forced accountability by asking questions, requiring supporting documentation, and following up, strongly requested agendas for meetings, and provided adjusting feedback to those coming to meetings late repeatedly.

Additionally, I have worked on increasing the professionalism (requiring proper English and grammar in customer correspondence, moving away from work out clothes, revealing clothes, etc), decreasing the non-productive time (limiting Halloween activities, etc.). I am now starting to see a lot of pushback that has shown itself in anonomous e-mails to the company owner stating I'm changing the culture, that it's no longer fun working here, people dreading coming to work, having folks ask for "permission" to spend over a certain amount of the company's money, etc.

I know worry about my longevity with this company as HR, my VP and the owner are hearing about how my coming on board is ruining things.

How should I react to all of this? Do I need to have a sit down with my VP to reset my efforts?


dolphin's picture

Yes! I think you need to have a sit down with the bigwigs, if only to assure that they are behind you. Culture change is hard to do and takes a long time to fully put in place. But IMO one of the most important pieces of change efforts is having senior leadership support. Without that it's not likely to be successful. I think the right thing to do at this point is to address the concerns head on with not only the VPs, but also the employees. Because this is change, I think some resistance is to be expected, but how it is handled is a key.

Here's an article that I think encapsulates the steps to making change efforts successful:

jhack's picture

You need decide what change is really important (accountability, documentation?) and what change can wait, or doesn't materially affect performance metrics (Halloween celebrations, workout clothes?).

You must be able to justify the changes in terms of company performance. And dolphin is right: you need to ensure senior management support for your efforts. You can be in serious trouble if old-timers with family relationships highlight where you're focused on issues that don't affect performance, but degrade morale.

If you find that the senior management isn't behind you 100 percent, you need to be willing to relax on some of your new rules, and let people know that you are changing to ensure that the company is both successful and fun. Or you need to consider moving on.

Good luck, and let us know how it evolves.


juliahhavener's picture
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What were the objectives set out when you came in? I absolutely think it's time to sit down and visit where you are, where you're going, and what is good for the company. Change is uncomfortable - that won't change. With six months down, this is a lot of change - good change, but still a lot. I suspect that if you have the data to back up the effects of your change (increased productivity, better customer service, less loss), and those changes are all the ones that needed to be made, you will find support.

You may want to consider some of the personal benefits to the change for your employees, too. It's hard to get up every day and dress up especially in non-customer facing roles; it costs money and time - what's in it for them?

I see a lot of good stuff here - are we celebrating milestones? I hope lots of affirming feedback is going from you, to your directs, to THEIR directs. If it isn't, it may be the missing link.

Mark's picture
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I have sent you a private message.


stephenbooth_uk's picture

Change always brings resistance, part of managing change is dealing with (note, I didn't say over coming) the resistance.

From what you've said I believe that you do need to talk to your VP to make sure that you're both looking at the same priorities and time scales. You also need to be sure that senior management are supportive of what you are doing and of the pace you are setting. If they're not, and you keep going, then you could be unemployed and the company will slip back into the established patterns. If you talk to your VP and it turns out that they have a different view to you then you need to change your view, persude them to come around to your way of thinking or find some middle ground that is acceptable to both of you. Maybe they're behind you 100%, maybe they think you're hitting the right things but are going too fast, maybe they think the speed is acceptable but you're hitting A, B and C whilst they would prefer you hit B, D and Q now and leave C and A for later. If you don't ask you may not know until too late.

Talking with your boss on a regular basis, even if there's nothing wrong, is generally a good idea. Isn't that one of the drivers behind you doing weekly O3s? So your directs can talk with their boss, in two way communication rather than the one way team meeting information dump/cascade, on a regular basis.


US41's picture

I have had this experience of being brought from a high pressure, shark-filled environment to a small family operation with lower pressure.

I was nearly fired shortly after my arrival after multiple complaints about how I did not fit in and I was ruining everything. The same complaints you received. Of course, I was not an MT manager at that time, so I was much worse off than you are. At least you have started building connections with O3's and the like.

I think the thing that stands out for me the most is that you acknowledge you are taking on the company culture, and imo that is a lost cause. I think implementing O3's with your reports is a good thing as is using feedback to communicate with your directs. You can't go wrong there - especially if you pump up the positive feedback to a level that the silence that lingers after a miss is deafening (still working on that myself).

I'd watch out on changing dress requirements or anything else that is established policy without direct impact to profitability and performance. There have been some mightily successful regional companies that have very loose requirements for dress. I'd back off on the grammar and such as well.

Get your boss's goals. Devise measureable, time-based objectives to contribute into those goals directly. Ignore everything that does not absolutely drive those metrics up into your boss's performance measurements. Back off on anything that will not produce ROI.

That will limit your scope and the push-back to only those things which are easily defended. You can push that agenda through with less fight, and the anonymous emails (which may all emanate from two people, btw) will not hold much water.

If your numbers show improvement, and you build relationships with boss, peers, and directs, you will dig roots in that cannot be pulled up. Then you can start to tackle some of the other stuff such as dress, grammar, etc, if, by the time you are fully indoctrinated to their culture, you still care about them.

WillDuke's picture
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I haven't been in this position. I am on the other side though, I own a small business. I can tell you unequivocally that what US41 just wrote rang my bell. Spot on, clear and powerful. Do what he said.

My guess is that the owner brought you in specifically for your professionalism. The owner wants to straighten out the company and make it work better. But as the saying goes, Rome wasn't built in a day.

Pick some battles that are obvious big winners. Focus on those first. Get some "street cred" going. After you have put money in the owner's pockets, then you can do anything you want.

Concurrently, can you implement changes to improve the experience of people lower in the org chart? Give them something in exchange for what you're asking from them. That little bit of honey might get them on your side. And nobody wins on their own.

I know US41 is a high D, my hunch is that you are too. Are you being sensitive to how your personality interacts with the staff of a service organization? My hunch is that you have a lot of S personalities in there. It's a lot easier to change your own approach than it is to get people to change theirs. :)

That's my limited view from the other side of the table.