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What does a business owner/manager do? I have a not easily replace star producer that has in essence given up on managing and communicating with a direct. Both claim they've exhausted their desire to make this work between the two of them. This direct is a C+ type performer and the two of them simply cannot seem to get along. Communication between the two of them is mostly short direct conversations and emails. Both are contributing to the problem and I can't lay blame solely at either one. I've spent a ton of time and money working with both on communication skills, conflict management, etc including using outside consultants but seen very little traction for it. So I'm looking for ideas. Do I let both employees go? Do I keep the high-producer but at what ultimate cost-yes she'd be very difficult to replace but is production worth the pain? Do I continue to try and work through the situation? My company is small--there's no HR--I'm the HR dept and I know the buck stops with me but I'm just not sure what that buck is.

jhack's picture

Have you listened to the "Resolving Conflict" podcast?

http://www.manager-tools.com/2006/08/resolving-conflict/

John

tg4dk's picture

Yes, several times but I'm just not getting any traction in applying that to this.

WillDuke's picture

Just to clarify for my own thoughts.

1. You have a star producer.
2. That producer is a manager.
3. The direct (your skip) is a high C.
4. That producer does not want to do their manager duties.

I guess the next question would be, if a manager doesn't want to manage, how can they be a star producer?

What is this manager's DiSC profile?

You say that both have given up on making "this" work. What exactly is this? What exactly is the problem between the two of them?

tg4dk's picture

The producer is a dental hygienist. She "produces" in that she generates production ($) by seeing patients and being an excellent clinician. Her skills are top notch. The conflict is with the department assistant. When I say she's a C+ employee, I don't mean on the DISC, just overall she's a slightly above avg employee. This assistant works with 3 hygienists and having conflict with 1. These people work in close connection with one another and pair up assistant to hygienist on a rotation basis, daily. So it's not so much direct "manager" duties but just not wanting to conduct the necessary business of hygienist with assistant. Replacing a good hygienist is very, very difficult but let's say I decide to let the assistant go and try for a better hire, what's this saying to the rest of the office. I see it as saying that if you don't want to make a good effort at being a good teammate but are very skilled then you don't have to--and that I don't see how I can tolerate.

WillDuke's picture

Okay, much more clear. Thank you. I know what you mean about hygienists. I practically choose my dentist based on them! Seriously, I see the hygienist twice a year. Each time I spend 55 minutes with her, and 5 minutes with the doctor, who takes a quick peek if that. :)

So what is the fundamental problem between the two employees? You say they cannot get along. Are they poking each other with dental equipment? Are they yelling in front of patients? Does each think the other is an idiot?

One thing Mark & Mike make pretty clear is that we don't need to fix how anyone feels. Okay, I don't like someone, that's my problem. How I BEHAVE is the manager's problem. So, focus on behavior not on feelings.

"Sarah, can I give you some feedback? When you poke Anne in the eye with a tooth scraper I think about having you committed for all of our safety. What do you think you could do differently next time?"
"But I hate her so much."
"I understand. But what can you do differently so that nobody gets hurt?"

"Sarah, can I give you some feedback? When you yell at Anne in front of patients it makes you look unprofessional. What do you think you can do differently next time?"
"But she really ticks me off!"
"I understand. But what can you do differently to maintain your professional stature?"

The feedback needs to be tailored to their DiSC profile so that it really registers with them. This will work a lot better if you are having One on One meetings as well. Of course the feedback works best if you have already been doing lots of positive feedback.

If you can post what you think their profiles are, I'd be happy to give more specific thoughts.

tcomeau's picture

[quote="tg4dk"]... The conflict is with the department assistant. When I say she's a C+ employee, I don't mean on the DISC, just overall she's a slightly above avg employee. This assistant works with 3 hygienists and having conflict with 1. These people work in close connection with one another and pair up assistant to hygienist on a rotation basis, daily. So it's not so much direct "manager" duties but just not wanting to conduct the necessary business of hygienist with assistant.
[/quote]

Have you given the hygienist specific, behavior oriented feedback? For example (and I'm going just on my memory of how my hygienist and the dental assistant interacted on my last visit):
[list]
When you raise your voice in front of patients, you project an unprofessional image that reduces our referrals
When you criticize the assistant for providing the wrong supplies, you're suggesting to patients that we are unprepared
When you don't explain to the assistant how you want films organized, it slows down taking radiographs, which inconveniences patients and makes everyone rush to stay on schedule
When you don't identify the procedure you're doing the assistant, she codes it wrong, and the billing is wrong, so our payments can be delayed or denied
[/list:u]

And all of these get wrapped in a "Can I give you some feedback?/how could you do this differently?" format.

Think about the behaviors that matter, and that need to improve. It may be, on reflection, that you'll recognize that while the hygienist's clinical skills are great, the overall impact on the business is the larger problem.

At the same time, please remember to work on improving the assistant. If you can turn a C+ assistant into a B+ who makes your other hygienists top performers as well, your eventual decision may get easier.

It might help us help you if you could give some specific examples of conflict? Did I get close with the list above, or blow it completely?

If you have done this kind of feedback, I encourage you to review the late-stage coaching casts and start following it with both of them. Whoever improves (and you hope they both will) gets to stay, right?

tc>

tcomeau's picture

[quote="WillDuke"]...When you poke Anne in the eye with a tooth scraper....[/quote]

Darn, I missed that one! :D

I think I'm seeing more parallel posts these days. And more names attached to those posts, which is a good thing!

tc>

tg4dk's picture

Will--I sincerely appreciate your opinion. The hygienist is a very, very high C. She makes Gil Grissom on CSI look like a slacker. She's the "educated" of the two with a college degree and very competative. The assistant is an S. She's obviously not as "educated" having went to technical school for her training. Although in her 30's she's very lacking in confidence and not especially motivated. She performs her job as required but seldom strives for going above and beyond. So this is the basis of the disconnect. One a high striving detailed person, the other a pleasant, decent person but happy just to be where they are. The issue for me is that I need the more "senior" educated person--the hygienist- to be the leader of the two. And in her words--"we just don't connect and we never will". So in essence the hygienist has given up. There communication-such that it is-has started to reduce to short impersonal statements of fact and communication by note, memo and interoffice email. The hygienist is unwilling to try any different approachs and the assistant simply isn't equiped to. As a small business I can't reassign anyone and there's no way to avoid them having to work in proximity and at least one day a week directly. I'm feeling very squeezed in regards to options. Termination of one? Both? Continue working at it? It's starting to effect the rest of the staff as they are aware of the conflict. And I'm a pretty compromising type guy but I also cannot let an employee dictate who they will or won't work with, otherwise I've got nothing left to run.
Thanks again.

WillDuke's picture

Okay, so it sounds like the hygienist is not only a C, but a D as well. You can make use of that. :) It also sounds like you need to raise your expectations of the assistant. What could she be doing differently to improve the situation?

For clear notes I'm making the following pretend names:
Assistant - Anne
Hygienist - Halle

Look for opportunities to give Halle positive feedback on professional behavior. Watch for when she's being conscientious (might be with other assistants) and give her positive feedback on it. This lets her know what you want and expect from her.

"Halle, can I give you some feedback? When you give clear concise instructions to the assistants it really showcases your knowledge. You make the company look professional and organized. Thank you."

Look for opportunities to give Anne positive feedback on good teamwork. It might be with another hygienist.

"Anne, can I give you some feedback? When you respond quickly and knowledgeably to Barb's requests you really help the team succeed. Thank you.

"Anne, can I give you some feedback? When you smile and say good morning to the other staff it really helps bring the team together. Keep up the good work."

What you're doing is focusing on the BEHAVIOR you want. Once you think they're clear on that, then you can throw in some adjusting feedback.

Hygienist - High C
"Halle, can I give you some feedback? When you use short terse communications with Anne it really reflects poorly on your professionalism. What do you think you can do differently?"
"She just drives me nuts! She can't do anything!"
"I understand you feel that way. But can I count on you to behave as the professional I know you are? I need you to help the rest of the staff rise to a higher level. What do you think you can do differently next time?"

All of this leverages YOUR relationship with them as their manager. If you're not doing the One on One meetings yet, start now. Start with everyone, not just these two. Your good relationship can encourage them to either "take one for the team" for the high S, or to "Be a professional" for the high C.

Be supportive. Expect the best from them. Acknowledge it when you get it. Encourage them when you don't.

tg4dk's picture

Will--Thanks again. I've been doing OOO for about 14 months now, and it's been very useful. Now if I can just find a way to break through this total impass between these two.

WillDuke's picture

14 months of O3? Have you been doing feedback too?

I'd lay it out there.

"Halle, can I give you some feedback? This ongoing problem with Anne really makes me question your professionalism and fitness for this job. I expect a lot from someone with your knowledge and background. I have brought in consultants. We have worked on communication and conflict resolution. But none of this is going to work without your help. What do you think we can do to get this resolved?"

"Anne, can I give you some feedback? This ongoing problem with Halle is really hurting the team. Everyone's uncomfortable when the two of you come together. I have brought in consultants. We have worked on communication and conflict resolution. But none of this is going to work without your help. What do you think we can do to get this resolved?"

You need them to be partners in resolving their respective behaviors. Maybe they'll never be barbecuing together on the weekend, and that's okay. But they do need to work together. That's a reasonable expectation. They need to control their behavior. That's a reasonable expectation. They need to have ownership in resolving the situation. If they aren't willing to do that, what choice do you have?

tcomeau's picture

[quote="WillDuke"]
I'd lay it out there.
[/quote]

Once again, I agree. If you've been giving this kind of feedback, it's time to start the late-stage coaching model. I encourage you to apply the model to each individually -- I think you've already realized that they both need to improve.

tc>

US41's picture

[quote]This ongoing problem with Halle[/quote]

Be careful doing this, because this is not a behavior. This is a conclusion - an opinion. Giving feedback about anything other than behaviors is a recipe for chaos.

There is nothing I as your employee can do about "this ongoing situation with Halle."

You need to provide specific behavior to correct that you have identified that each person engages in that leads to "this ongoing problem."

Otherwise, all they hear you saying is, "You are in trouble because the other person is a jerk."

They will despair, and you will not get what you want.

Example:
[quote]
[b]MGR:[/b] "Can I give you some feedback? This ongoing situation with Halle is really hurting the team, and everyone is starting to think less of the two of you. What can you do differently?"

[b]EMPLOYEE:[/b] "Nothing. It is all Halle's fault. I'm not doing anything. And I don't agree that everyone thinks less of me. I think you think that, and you are just saying it that way to spread responsibility out to other people. You need to fix Halle, not me, and I'm tired of you trying to make it our problem. If we have this conversation again, I'm going straight to HR."
[/quote]

Try this instead:

[quote][b]MGR:[/b] "Can I give you some feedback? When you interrupt Halle during our staff meeting, here's what happens: Everyone stares at you in shocked silence, and then after the meeting I hear them badmouthing both of you for having this childish feud going on. I start to think that I will have to do something about one of you to resolve the situation myself and bring peace to the department. What can you do differently?"

[b]EMPLOYEE:[/b] "I didn't start it, blah blah blah"

[b]MGR:[/b] "Fine. Interrupting your coworker is unacceptable. What can you do differently?"
[/quote]

It is the focus on behavior that makes feedback work. Focus on a conclusion and you are swinging in the cold wind, my friends.

Feedback is the way to go, but carefully target specific ineffective behaviors. If you cannot, then perhaps there isn't really a problem anyway, and you are imagining the problem.

WillDuke's picture

Wow, I totally missed that I did that! Thank you for cleaning that up for me US41.

Mark's picture

I regret that this has been here for a month and I have been absent.

Has anything changed in the last month?

Mark

Mark's picture

And, there are two separate problems here, not one.

One is your Hygienist's lack of respectful behavior for the assistant. The other is the assistant's performance and (perhaps?) lack of respect for the hygienist.

Who does the assistant report to you? Surely not the hygienist. You, right?

Mark