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Submitted by lar12 on


I've been tasked to lead a special project team for my company. One of the teammates has been with the company 25+ years. Outside of the special project she is a peer that I am required to work with on a daily basis. Her boss was recently promoted and has no managerial experience. The teammate has a reputation for getting things done. She is also the only one that does her job at our facility.

Problem: the teammate is a bully and her behavior is causing problems with the team. After a particularly confrontational couple of days I approached her, asking what was going on. After getting to the root cause, she was stressed, I provided feedback that her behavior consistently "caused others to walk on eggshells and hesitate to want to deal with her". Her response was "ya'll are just going to have to deal with it" delivered with a big F-you smile.

I'm at a loss for what to do. I've discussed with my boss, also a MT follower, and he had no advice either. My gut feel is the next time she behaves that way, to ask her to leave. However, she is ruthlessly vindictive and both my full time team & the special project team need her support.

help... please!

BTW, I'm a high D

gpeden's picture

 Hi -

I assume she is a high-D as well.  A couple of thoughts:

You may have missed an opportunity to show empathy and build a toe-hold of trust. When you got to the root cause "She was stressed" - I imagine it was not easy for her to admit this. As a high-D myself its not easy to show any kind of weakness - so even this admission was a tiny opening that showed she was human after all.  If you kept on the offensive with 'then I gave her feedback' you may have inadvertently given her the proof she needed that "everyone is out to get me" which the bully behavior may be a defense.  I have found that a little bit of understanding - like "yeah - i can image that it must be really stressful for you...." could be the seed of a relationship.  

'give to get' as a high-D is not easy (see my Disc 7511).  It may seem like you are rolling over or being the doormat.  But ask yourself - do you want to be 'right', or effective?  You also don't want her to think you are ratting her out to your boss - that a complete trust killer.

I have found that finessing the feedback model - especially in peer situations - is one of the more challenging applications MT/CT.  Get it right and you can turn an adversary into an ally.  Keep at it - unless one of you resigns or gets fired you are going to be in this situation again. 



DISC 7511

JulieGeek's picture
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You said you gave feedback, but did you follow the model?

"Can I give you some feedback? When you do <this>, here's what happens: <bad things>. What can you do differently?"

It sounds like you stated the results without defining the undesirable behavior and without asking for her commitment to change. You say she's a High D--hit the High D buttons. Status, prestige, results, challenges.

"When you rip people's heads off and puke down their necks, it makes you look like you're put of control, like you can't handle the job at this level. It gives the impression that you don't have the skills to function on a special team like ours. What can you do differently?"

If she comes back with the "I'm stressed" cop-out, ask for what she's going to do to handle her stress better. Point out that the team should not have to compromise its results to make up for her inability to handle stress.

Alternatively (or complimentarily) turn the tables and whip out your High-S, "Gosh, I'm so sorry you're having this trouble. What can I do to help you? Can we lighten your load? Shift some of your responsibilities to someone else? I hate the thought that a member of our team is so stressed, because, I mean, wow! it's obvious you're pretty close to the edge. I know somebody with your experience and expertise wouldn't go off like that if that weren't that case." I watched another manager use that to great effect on a a similar individual. Giving her the impression that we thought she was on the edge and not able to handle her job--and feeling sorry for her and embarrassed for her as well--was all it took to get her to straighten up and fly right.


DiSC 5751

lar12's picture
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I followed the feedback model : May I, When You, It Does...  I dropped the "what can" b/c she's a high D and tends to respond to authority negatively.  I could care less if she's accepts me as a positional leader.  I just want a change in behavior. 

I've also tried your alternative "High S" with her.  Her response then was to digress into a complaint session about how "how hard she works and her boss doesn't support her" whine, whine, whine...

Were it not for the requirement that I need her to do her job, and my team needs her in order to succeed, I'd do an end around and avoid her.  But, "nothing good can come from that"...

mattpalmer's picture

If your direct "tends to respond to authority negatively", you're going to have an adventure getting her to do anything she doesn't want to do.  That is a pretty serious problem there in and of itself, and is unrelated to your use of the feedback model.  Don't drop the fourth step just because you're worried about negative responses -- deal with that separately.

The reason why step 4 is so important is that it is "closing the loop" on the feedback.  Steps 1-3 are essentially you talking at your direct.  Step 4 is where you come back around and ask "so, are you OK with that?", and requires the direct to actually think about what you've said.  Getting a verbal agreement is also a subtle subconscious motivator for your direct -- having said "yes, I'll change that", there's some small part of her that will be screaming "you said you would change this!".  The first time you ask for change, you probably won't see diddly.  The 20th or 30th though?  I'd be surprised if there wasn't *some* observable change in behaviour.

"Holy crap", I can hear you say, "Thirty instances of feedback?".  Yeah, it's a lot, and if you've *got* to have change now, feedback isn't going to fix it. But real lasting change never happens fast, and quick, violent change all to often leads to a brief period of correction followed by backsliding, because you only got compliance energy, rather than commitment energy.  Take the time to build the relationship, then slooooowly steer things in the right direction, and you'll have achieved long-term change.

And by the way, before you think I'm a soft-touch high S looking to avoid confrontation, I'm a 7114 high-D -- there's not a people-oriented bone in my body.  I'm all about the results, and this is the way I'm confident I'm going to get 'em -- gradual, effective change.

STEVENM's picture

Relationship building and adjusting feedback is likely the best main path to resolve it long term. 

But there is one more thing I'd throw out there.  Maybe having the foresight to change things up.  Instead of relying on her to do the work, rely on her to teach the work to others and work through them on this.  It may or may not help in the immediate future, though I suspect having to work purely through others will force her to do a little more relationship building than she'd like or fail.  But when I think about this tactically, she feels (and you seem to as well) that she holds all the cards for what she does.  Nobody else there does her job.  I have a high D, so I suspect I can speak to this - there's something rewarding about that even as she might complain about it, and it allows her the luxury of not stepping up.  When that situation changes - when the environment is that she may be the best but there are others - As a high D she'll want to rise to the challenge and make sure nobody WANTS to use anyone but her because she's the best.  That or she'll sink.  Right now there's no challenge to get her to there.

It's not MT vetted advice, but I think spreading that knowledge out should be helpful to the organization and could force her to stretch a bit.

JulieGeek's picture
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 I think we've all hit the same points:

1) The fourth step in the feedback model is crucial because it's HER problem and SHE has to solve it. You have to ask her for what SHE'S going to change.

2) The high-S approach is just another view of the same concept. Ask HER for the solution to a problem. She complains about her boss--"What would make you feel more appreciated? Have you told your boss that? Do you want me to speak to him/her for you?" She complains about how hard she works--"What would lighten your load? Is this project too much for you? Can we off-load that for you?" Every complaint is focused back to her with a request for a solution.

If you don't get her to propose and own the solution, you're just becoming part of her problem.

lar12's picture
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It's been a couple of months since the feedback incident and I wanted to give an update.  Since the feedback, the teammate has been AWESOME to work with.  She's not exhibited any of the behaviors that I've witnessed in the past.  In addition, she even helped us work through a plant emergency in order to prevent a plant shutdown, well beyond her routine job expectations.

I'm surprised.  And pleased.

GlennR's picture

Further proof that all of the time we've invested in MT pays off!

Thanks for the update.


mattpalmer's picture

Here's where you've got the opportunity to lock in your achievements.  (Good work, by the way, on delivering feedback in such a way as to produce change!)  Telling people what they're doing wrong is important, because it makes clear your expectations.  Telling people what they're doing *right* is equally (arguably *more*) important, for the same reason -- and *also* because it reinforces the good behaviour and provides a positive feedback loop to get things in a virtuous circle.

I've managed to produce lasting positive change in one of my directs (a fairly outspoken and cynical person) with one sit-down meeting about unacceptable behaviours and regular positive feedback.  He's not perfect (who is?), but if I ever needed personal proof of the power of positive feedback, he's going to be a shining reminder for the rest of my career.