Hello! :D This is my first post and I hope to make many more.

I could use some advice regarding a pushy upper. My role on the team is in-between our lead and the directs; I am in a leadership role but I don't have final say.

My team has expressed concern about our new lead, "Tammy," who has only been with us about a month. For example, Tammy has insisted on daily handshakes, off-site one-on-one's, and team lunches to "get to know us." Her intentions were not well received and the daily handshakes began to invade everyone's "personal space" (including mine). The entire team was apprehensive about the one-on-one's as well, since she knew nothing of our performance.

I mentioned to Tammy that she didn't have to do the handshakes daily and she became highly aggravated, copped an attitude and said, "Well, this is how I greet people... what is that, offensive to you or something?!" To which, I didn't respond and she walked away. Later I told her it was more an issue about personal space. Now instead of handshakes she touches and shakes the back of our chairs.

The one-on-one meeting offsite turned out to be a personal interrogation about us and our families; nothing pertaining to business or performance.

Tammy's also made it a habit to corner members of my team to extract information from private team "pow wow's" we've had with her boss. What we said to her boss is between my team and her boss only.

Tammy has also stated she wants us to "socialize" outside of work and my team is NOT interested.

Any ideas on how I can help my team deal with her? I've already approached her boss on this, who admitted Tammy needed "coaching" but there has been little improvement. I can tell Tammy is very insecure about herself and will "fly off the handle" at small disagreements or frustrations. However, I will do whatever it takes to protect my team and make them feel comfortable again. I am just at a loss.

It takes me YEARS to get to know someone I work with. I just can't believe someone is this adamant about personal knowledge of a direct. I think it's completely inappropriate and highly unprofessional. And I'm upset she was hired to begin with, merely based on the fact she's great with metrics. I personally think she's an awful people manager.

Thanks so much for any help,

WillDuke's picture
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I'm trying to understand [quote]My role on the team is in-between our lead and the directs; I am in a leadership role but I don't have final say. [/quote]
On the one hand, it's impossible to manage up and change your boss. On the other hand, it's important to protect your team.

If I've got your role about right in my head, the best thing you can do is try to understand your boss. If you had to put a personality profile (see DISC casts) what would it be? Is she a D or C trying to exhibit S characteristics? That might explain the interrogation bit. You said she was great at Metrics. Maybe her boss told her she needed to work on her people skills. None of us are perfect at our jobs, we're all learning.

Keep one thing in mind. Even though your boss didn't take your suggestion well, notice that her behavior did change. She stopped shaking hands and started shaking chairs. Sure, might not have been what you were thinking, but she did change.

Once you figure out what her patterns of communication are adjust your own to match. Once you improve your relationship with her, then you can help her communicate with the rest of the team.

This sounds like a contradiction from my saying you can't change your boss. But I'm not suggesting you do. I'm suggesting you alter your behavior to improve the relationship, then do what you can to help your boss succeed after that.

Sure it's a lot of work, but in the long run you'll be protecting your team. You'll also be improving your relationship with your boss which just might be helping your career.

US41's picture

Understand your goals, your options, the consequences, the relative ROI, and then make a decision.

What is your goal? To change Tammy's behavior?

Your options:

1. [b]Give Tammy very gentle, carefully disguised feedback. [/b]You could end up destroying your career in your company. Tammy is your boss, and boss's are immune to feedback from their directs. Your feedback will be interpreted as insubordination if you phrase it wrongly. Tread with great caution, and take this course of action if you are ready to deal with the likely consequences and fall on your sword. ROI: her behavior changes, your paycheck doesn't go up any longer, eventually you are given "special projects" or the duty of administrating a campaign for a non-profit charity raising funds, and are driven out. Or you might be laid off in a trumped-up re-org.

2. [b]Put up with it and hope it improves.[/b] Doing nothing is always an option. What's the worst that happens? You and your folks are irritated by chair shaking? Oh well. Who cares? The ROI is nothing. The consequences are you have to work harder on giving your team positive feedback.

3. [b]Leave.[/b] This is the only sure-fire cure for a bad boss. Your duty is not to stay on the job and protect your team while your own work situation tanks. Leave on your own terms. The ROI is a potentially better boss and better job.

Be very, very careful. Any conversation with your boss giving them feedback is likely to end on an unhappy note.

Whatever you do, being outraged is going to hurt you. Take a deep breath, and don't be so protective of your team that you do anything foolish (even if I suggested it as a possibility).

(I had a couple of very Machiavellian suggestions in here - but I decided to remove them as I just couldn't recommend them)

pmoriarty's picture
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Welcome to MT!

I've started to reply to this several times and keep getting tripped up. Can you elaborate on the reporting/management structure between your team, you and Tammy? Who has hire/fire responsibility? Who writes reviews, manages budgets, etc...

lalam's picture

Try seeing the situation from her perspective. As a new leader coming into a new team, what are her priorities and challenges? What is she solving for? Can you try to imagine how she would descrive the situation if she were to post here? If you identify the areas where you can help her come up to speed faster, and get to know the team better, the outcome would be so much better for the team, for you and for her.

ChristinaFriend's picture

Hi Everyone - Thank you for responding! These have given me a few suggestions to take back with me. Very much appreciated!!!

[b]Will[/b] - She has only been in the department for a month and definitely came across as a high D, low I. I understand that the bulk of her career is from manual labor supervising positions. I think one of her most recent positions was a call center, so we have also experienced the "cheerleader" style. So far, her style hasn't been well-received. "Tammy's" boss stated to me that she needed coaching on her management style for our particular environment. I do like what you say about adjusting my approach. Lately I have found myself grumbling under my breath and biting my tongue at little things she says, which I realize is coming across in my body language. I'm trying hard to blow it off, but this is one of my first roles as a leader and I'm still learning how to do everything. I realize I can't change her; however, I can change how I communicate. I'll begin to think of alternatives. Thanks!!

[b]US41[/b] - Thanks for your suggestions. I definitely don't see myself as giving her feedback on her performance - I'm not that crazy. So far, I'm following #2 "Put up with it and hope it improves." I have started to post for other positions internally, though. (Guess I'm morphing to #3...) I'm hopeful that her relationship with the team does get better and people start to warm up to her. She definitely came on too strong and that was a turn-off for everyone I have spoken with.

[b]Paul[/b] - Thank you for the welcome! I feel a super green in here, but its nice to surround myself with such experience. The structure of my department is: [list]Department Lead - has hire/fire capability, manages department budgets, oversees 3 Functional Leads ("Tammy's" role).
Functional Leads write reviews, determine pay increases, and have general supervision duties for individuals who service 3 separate clients. Each client's team has no more than 3 people.
Client "SMEs" (me) workflow the team, provide official feedback regarding Coordinators to Functional Leads and serve as a point of contact.
Under SME's are the Coordinators.[/list:u]
Hope that helps clarify. Wow. Putting it on paper makes me look like I'm in a weenie role. Well, I'm still learning, so I won't push anything. And when I say I want to protect my team, I want to make sure *everyone* in my department is comfortable (other client teams included), not feeling like they are walking on pins and needles everyday. Perhaps I am overstepping my bounds since I'm new at this. Reading all this makes me want to take a step back.

I look forward to hearing more of your feedback.

Thanks again,

ChristinaFriend's picture

lalam- I heard her say that the "dynamic on the team is so different." I know she isn't used to our environment because her background is more "manual labor" supervising positions. But you make an excellent point about her perspective. I can understand why she wanted to get to know us, I just think her approach should not have been so directly personal about our families. To some extent, I think the whole chair shaking thing is a "nerves" issue on her part. But, point made. If I had to acclimate myself to a new team tomorrow, I'd be terrified. Thanks for the reminder on that and I'll try to be more sensitive to this. :)

US41's picture

Christina - suggestion: Avoid speaking in terms of "everyone I know doesn't like" or "everyone on the team disapproves." Instead, just state how you feel. It doesn't matter what everyone thinks. Everyone could think she is the devil, but if you like her, then you could be the next lead yourself. The potential to be interpreted as a high-D who is trying to dominate by speaking for everyone is there any time you say "everyone thinks" or "most people think."

I've seen Mike demonstrate this in a conference before when one person who was a very, very high D said to Mark that "Everyone in here disagrees with that point." Mike then asked me if I agreed, and I said, "No." There were other people shaking their heads. We were trying to understand the DISC model at the time and reviewing our results from the official test. The high D tendency to say "everyone thinks" instead of "I think" ticks off not only I, S, and C types, but other D's as well who will then counter with "No they don't. Everyone thinks something else that I think." ;-)

I've had a boss before that "everyone on the team disliked." I didn't dislike him. I saw the things he did that ticked off my team mates. He did them to me as well. I got over it, and I became his right hand man. Pretty soon, the behaviors stopped. The reason they stopped is unclear to me. There was no feedback given. It seems as trust built, some of the awkward management behavior ended as his comfort level rose - it took several months for this to occur. Once the transition was complete, the old behaviors disappeared.

Meanwhile, I had built a STRONG relationship, while some of my peers were coughing up hairballs in the parking lot.

Those peers work for me now, and the set of peers I had after that promotion are now yet another rung down the ladder from me, and my boss is now a peer.

That relationship serves me still. To this day we circle the wagons. When I see him in trouble, I help him. When he needs something, I provide. More than once he has thrown himself in front of our boss for me - a very high risk, high trust sort of act.

I guess what I am saying is - don't burn your sofa because you stub your toe on it. Instead, walk differently.

ChristinaFriend's picture

US41 - Point taken. I say "everyone" because when "Tammy" came on board, our team was broken apart and now there are only 6 of us vs. the 10 we had. I've talked to each privately about her and they all share the same frustrations. I personally have been asked by 3 upper managers, "So, how do you like Tammy?" (These were the ones that interviewed her.) I don't think it's just me or the team that has issues with her; but again, I see your point. I just wanted to know if there was something I could do to help out my team from feeling uncomfortable around her right now.

I do understand what you are saying and will do my best to be positive and take a different approch. :wink: I think it would be interesting if we became peers, but also highly unlikely. And not because I don't think it's attainable; just don't see myself as her peer.

Thanks for giving me a few things to think about. Much appreciated.

Christina :)