Hello all,

I am supervising a lab lead. I hired this individual to lead our quality lab and for the most part gave the torch and let them run pretty much without any interferrence; all was well until they settled in and became accustomed to what they liked as a 'daily routine'. As this person's time within the role began to develop I began to see areas where they needed to improve as well as my own personal perception about this person's attitude.

During one 1 on 1 meeting I had with this individual I stated that their attitude can come off as bossy and demanding. I expressed that they should think about this. The individual told me that they are very direct and it is who they are. Before leaving for work I stated that a lot of people are direct, but that doesn't make it right. I told them to just think about it.

Later that week during a random visit in the lab I also pointed out other areas that needed improvement; spending less time in the lab and more time in other areas that this individual has a designated role of oversight.

After these conversations the lab lead stated they no longer wanted to be in 1 on 1 conversations with me because I make them feel uncomfortable, like I am picking them apart. 

I operated for a lot of their time here without little interferrence and I am now trying to make a platform to direct this person to improvement as it my job to make sure results are made; employees are given the opportunity to know where they could improve, provide avenues for sucesss, provide crticism and praise. 

I'm not sure how to rectify this; it is odd/peculiar. I am not sure if it is because this person has never been in a role where they had routine 1 on 1 meetings. I am not sure if this person is a little startled by my new approach of taking charge rather than observing from the sidelines anymore. I am not sure if this person is worried of not being able to be in charge or is fearful of losing the power they thought they had or coming to the realization that I am their supervisor?

Any help and further digging would be helpful 

dankeene's picture
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Hi LittlePants,

Managing people is tough -- especially when someone is resistant to being managed.  Reading through your description a couple things jumped out at me (by the way, you're in the right place, there are all kinds of podcasts for dealing with these situations).

1) Bossy and Demanding - You described that the person's attitude comes off as bossy and demanding which may be true.  I would suggest focusing more on the specific behaviors that make the person seem bossy and demanding rather than just telling the person they are bossy and demanding.  When you talk about attitude, it gives the direct the ammo to push back with "that's just who I am".  When you focus on the behavior you focus on something that's changeable.  Also, focus on the impact of the behavior when you give that feedback. 

It could sound something like this: "Hey (direct), can I give you some feedback? (wait for yes).  When you speak in a loud and terse voice it makes your co-workers uncomfortable and makes them less likely to approach you for help in the future.  Can you change that?"

2) Time in the lab - Same thing as above.  From your description, it sounds like you gave them feedback on what they were doing without stating the impact of that behavior.  Some questions to ask yourself are: Are they missing deadlines?  Is their work product not up to snuff? 

If they're getting their work done to your satisfaction then do you really need to manage how much time they're in the lab versus not?

3) No More 1:1's - I'd suggest asking yourself how much positive versus negative feedback you've given.  You need to have really great relationships with your directs in order to manage them effectively and if you jump to negative feedback too soon you risk damaging that relationship.

I'd say something like, "I understand that you feel uncomfortable meeting 1:1 with me and I'm sorry for any behavior on my part that contributed to that.  I care about everyone that works for me and I want you to be successful here.  A big part of that success is meeting with me 1:1, every week, for 30 minutes.  (Talk about why 1:1's are important to you).

In addition to Mark's book, The Effective Manager, which has tons of resources for situations like this, I suggest checking out "Crucial Conversations" which may help you some with the interpersonal dynamics of all this.  Because when you come right down to it, that's what management is.

Good luck!


LittlePants's picture

Hi Dan,


In regards to pointing out the bossy part; I provided a behavioral example where the lead came into the lab and demanded (could see in her tone) to move some things. I raised this up during the conversation and stated the impact could be deterimental depending on who the person was. That the lead needed to channel her directness in a tone and manner for each individual. The lead responded they would be direct the same way with all individuals; I assured that this would not work out well for all people since everyone is different. I reassured that this attitude/bossiness was only something I wanted them to think about. 


In regards to spending too much in the lab, it was noted on their performance review under functional skills/knowledge that they had not taken oversight of other key areas and had not gained adequate understanding to build respect, rapport with those in that department. 

In regards to the 1 on 1 formats, the majority of them have been very focused on imporvements of the quality department (e.g. current lab improvements, customer complaints, lab safety, measuring performance, metrics, etc.) This latest 1 on 1 was different because I took the stab to speak about some things I felt they needed to work on; prior to that I left these personal aspects alone.


Please provide any further insight if you have it. 

LittlePants's picture


As further clarification I feel as though I am dealing with someone who wont allow to be managed; and I it is becoming more and more evident. What do you do in these scenarios? Does it follow the attempt to "manage them up or out"?

The stab against me stating no more 1 on 1s was the icing on the cake.

I have on numerous occassions expressed the urgency they needed to show on filling gaps as required by their role and title as lab lead; however none of these attempts have been made and during their performance review when I discussed the gaps in the rolet they responded with excuses such as "I was under the impression that this task would take at least a year to complete"

mrreliable's picture

I strongly recommend the podcasts on feedback.

One concept the podcasts discuss is that management is like driving a car down the road. As a manager, you're controlling the acceleration, braking, driving speed, and direction at all times. You have to constantly make small adjustments while you're driving to keep the car to keep it going straight. If you don't make those small adjustments along the way, you end up in the ditch with a wrecked car.

It's difficult to tell exactly from your description, but it appears you put this person in a role, discussed the duties and the goals, and the left them to do the job. You gave them the torch and let them run "pretty much without any interference."

To be honest, "pretty much without any interference" sounds like pretty much without any managerial direction. You let this person know what you wanted done, but you didn't assertively manage them in terms of how you wanted it done. There seems to be a an empty gap between communicating the tasks and evaluating the finished product. Now the car is in the ditch.

I would agree with dankeene on making sure you focus on behaviors. It's clear you don't like this person's attitude, and that can be one of the challenges in managing people. But the procedures seem vague, and I could see the employee being frustrated feeling as if you let them go down the wrong path then waited until they ended up in the wrong place before you stepped in to correct it. I'd recommend trying to empathize with the employee to get back on track of helping the person be as successful as possible in their role.