I manage a team of 10 remote sales professionals.  Overall all 10 are strong performers.  I consider myself a good boss and apply the MT management philosophy.  My top directs would agree directly and by anonymous survey calling me firm but fair.

I have two directs that do a pretty good job, but can be very cynical and critical.  Ironically they are highly critical of me, but cannot accept constructive feedback I provide them.  I have strongly suspected for some time that they frequently conspire and make negative comments about me behind my back.  I just received feedback from outside our department that they are also doing so outside of our team.   I believe they take offense to deadlines and my holding them accountable.

My company just completed an anonymous employee survey.   7 of 10 directs responded.  In general, 5 responded good to great in all categories and 2 were very negative especially when discussing me. 

I am curious on the best way to handle the follow-up meeting.  My first reaction was to call them out (individually beforehand) but realize that would be unprofessional and thwart the process intended by the company.   I truly believe their comments to be unjust and intentionally malicious.  Our team gets together 4x/year and I believe the the rest of our team will be shocked when they see it too.  The two negative employees sometimes bring one other person into their mix, but otherwise their negativity has not spread and the rest of our team is very positive so I do not believe it will.

I want to be careful not to come across as defensive or totally ignoring their comments, but somehow defend myself showing the fact that our group is polarized, but the majority responding favorably to extremely favorably.

I intend to provide the two negative employees feedback about their non-professional behavior, but after this has blown over so as not to appear I am on a witch hunt. 

Any thoughts or help would be greatly appreciated.

timrutter's picture

First up, I've been there, so I know where you are coming from. I found going on a hunt and providing feedback did just ramped up the resentment and gave the people concerned something else to focus on. Remember, this is a company sponsored, anonymous survey, so you going on a hunt is breaking that commitment by the comapny you represent to your directs, however sure you are that you have their number.

The follow through I use now is:

* Thank everyone for their feedback whether I agree with it or not

* Select the things I want to work on (with advice from mentors/my boss)

* Move on

You cannot make them think your way, so why try? If you are not doing O3's, I would thoroughly recommend starting them



asteriskrntt1's picture

I agree with Tim. You might also want to reference the various podcasts about 360 reviews and exit interviews.  Basically, most people get their results and focus disproportionately on the negative reviews.  Your bosses know outliers when they see them.  Be very careful to draw conclusions based only on suspicions.  If you have direct evidence of them acting unprofessional, unethically or immorally, document it and use it.  If not, you cannot go there.

Singers's picture

Agree with previous comments, but would also suggest DISC if you are not already on it.

These types of issues most often happens to me when I have directs that I do not communicate as good with as I could. 

(In case you are not doing O3, as mentioned already, get started!)

Kind Regards
Mads Sorensen
Disc 4536

tedtschopp's picture

Where I work (a Fortune 200 company), the employee survey results are always shown to employees at staff meetings.  We don't see the individual answers, but the we see the charts and the graphs regarding how our group scored compared to the company at large, and the major business units and work groups we are a part of.

I have found this effective as an individual contributor.  Managment usually then asks the team to come up with a plan to address our weaknesses. 

Ted Tschopp
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ashdenver's picture

My only advice would be to work on fostering a better relationship in the O3s with these two folks.  "Ya know sometimes I get the sense that some of you don't agree with things I may say or do and I want you to know it's okay to be straight with me - in a professional way, of course.  We're all adults here and as your manager, I want you to succeed and be the best (whatever) you can be - for your sake as well as mine. So if you have something you want to say, I encourage you to speak directly with me when you feel like I've done something wrong or whatever else."

Honestly, I can't tell you how much better just having a simple conversation like that has helped a number of my professional relationships.  "Just tell me because if I don't know what bothers you, how could I possibly know to change or address it? If you don't speak up, things will never change. At least if you do speak up, there's a 50/50 chance that things could change. It's well worth it, in my experience."

And I would say it in a group setting to begin with and then reinforce it to everyone in the next round of O3s.  As anal retentive as I am, I would probably make notes and update my Outlook to remind myself to reinforce this concept every second or third O3 (or whatever works for you) so that the message is consisten and protracted, not left by the wayside and forgotten about to collect dust in a month's time.

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jhack's picture

Keep your eye on the prize:  what is the outcome you wish to achieve?  Is it a better team, with higher performance?  Make sure your actions are aligned with a meaningful, future-oriented goal.  Don't let them get under your skin, and don't "stoop to conquer."  

There's a podcast for just this situation, BTW: 

Who organized and will facilitate the followup meeting?   What is the goal of the meeting?   If HR is hosting it, then you can simply listen, acknowledge the feedback, and thank them (sincerely!).  Are you required to host it yourself?  Or is this a meeting you decided to have on your own?  If so, is it really necessary?  What do you hope to achieve?  

Aside from thanking them, you should also look deep and see if perhaps, in some way, their critique might be understandable.  Is there something you could learn from, and are there changes you could make to become a better manager?  Perhaps you could use DISC to give feedback to these folks in a style more likely to lead to the changes you want. 

Don't give them feedback about their negative review of you, unless you wish to send a message to the whole team that you really don't want or appreciate candor.  Thank them.  Smile.  You're the boss.  You don't need to win this argument.  You need to get the best out of everyone on the team. 

And if there are directs who don't perform, or are tearing down the team, then you do need to take action.  But responding to an anonymous survey is NOT "tearing down the team."  

Finally, folks, this is a good lesson:  There are no anonymous surveys. 

John Hack

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

Don't give them negative feedback.

You can't give feedback directly to someone when they respond to a company sponsored managerial feedback.  You can't be sure it's them.

Further, it tears down a company process to address a problem you have with one of your team - that's backwards.

I suspect you're right about the scurrilous-ness of these two.  That's irrelevant relative to this incident.

Look for other opportunities to give them feedback about behaviors.  Either that means you see it directly, or others report said behaviors to you.  Regardless, remember that the standard for giving feedback is whether you believe what you're being told.  Please have a listen to the third party feedback cast.

I do like Tim's 3 bullets.  Well said!