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Greetings!

I have a direct who disagreed with my approach to a problem during one of our regular staff meetings.  In fact, they were one of many who pointed out some flaws in my plan, rightfully so.  However, this particular direct did so in an visibly angry matter and when told "This is not professional behavior," by myself,  stormed out of the room.  

This is the second time a similar incident has occured.  I have a fairly strong relationship with this direct but they have displayed agitated or overtly angry behavior in the past when upset.

We finished the staff meeting as normal and I intend to meet with that direct tomorrow morning regarding the incident.  My real concern is how to respond this behavior in front of my other directs.  I feel strongly that any sort of disciplinary or feedback-related steps would are private, one-on-one.  On the other hand I also feel strongly that the entire team shouldn't believe there are no consequences for such blatantly disrespectful actions.

Rock and hard place.  I'd appreciate any input.

 

Gk26's picture

 I think the direct report needs to apologize to the whole team in person.

mattpalmer's picture

You told the direct, "This is not professional behaviour" in front of the team.  That is enough of a signal to everyone that you don't condone the behaviour at issue.  If you get any signals that other people may not have gotten that message, you can address that in the moment.  But think about it if you were on the other side -- if you saw one of your colleagues act the same way in your boss' staff meeting, and your boss said, "This is not professional behaviour", would you think, "gee, I guess that means there aren't consequences for acting like a child", or would you think "that person's acting like a child and the boss doesn't like it"?  Your directs are no less perceptive than you are.

As far as a forced apology, as GK26 suggests -- I'm not in favour of the notion.  It feels too much like telling a little kid to "say sorry", and they say it, but they don't mean it and nothing productive results from it.  You'll make the problem direct feel like a child, and have the rest of the team see them as a child.  Not good for building cohesion amongst the team.

Incidentally, given that this isn't the first time this sort of thing has happened, and it is so egregious, I would be having The Talk with this direct, saying basically "this is absolutely unacceptable behaviour, and if it happens again I will fire you immediately."  Don't mince words, because that's too easy to misinterpret.  Use the words "I will fire you" so that there can be absolutely no doubt of the consequences of this direct's behaviour.

phale's picture

 Thanks Matt,

I'm glad you put it the way you did.  I agree.  The direct was absent yesterday and I intend to address him today.  In all honesty I won't threaten termination.  The workplace can be a very casual place at times and I want to make very certain that he understands that casual being ok doesn't mean unprofessional is ok, before taking action.  However, I intend to be very direct in telling them what the consequences will be going forward, namely a written disciplinary followed by termination.

Sincerely appreciate the input.

 

 

 

 

phale's picture

 Thanks Matt,

I'm glad you put it the way you did.  I agree.  The direct was absent yesterday and I intend to address him today.  In all honesty I won't threaten termination.  The workplace can be a very casual place at times and I want to make very certain that he understands that casual being ok doesn't mean unprofessional is ok, before taking action.  However, I intend to be very direct in telling them what the consequences will be going forward, namely a written disciplinary followed by termination.

Sincerely appreciate the input.

 

 

 

 

dan west's picture

Matt made a great suggestion regarding direct, open and honest feedback. What did you say to your direct and how did he react to it?

My initial reaction in reading your post is that my staff meetings can get pretty animated. That is the culture that I have cultivated and it sounds like you have done the same thing and sometimes the passions run over a bit. When this happens, sometimes I diffuse the situation with a joke or just by simply commenting aloud on the passion. e.g. "Wow! Clearly there is some passion in the room on this. We're trying to solve X. Let's stay there and not let this conversation get out of hand."

You post focused a lot on emotions. I would suggest trying to focus on the physical behaviors versus the state of mind. The state of mind can always be refuted/misinterpreted. However, you can't argue with something like, "When you leave the meeting in the middle of a conversation you demonstrate a lack of professionalism to the team. This behavior reflects poorly on you and the organization and makes it far less likely for me to put you in meetings with other teams/groups. In the end, it limits your growth and it is disrespectful to everyone in attendance. Can you change this in the future?" 

That's basically the feedback model. All you need to do is ask if you can provide some feedback and you are there. You can also pile on some of the other items Matt mentioned, if this continues you are off the team, you're setting a bad example for your peers, etc.

The one mistake I think you made was by correcting the behavior publicly. I wasn't there but I know when I've been in similar situations, I've made this same mistake a bunch. If it's bad enough, I try to simply excuse everyone from the room and talk to the IC alone. Or, I wait until the end of the meeting and make a point of asking the IC to stay. People in the room will know what is going on, but it helps give a bit of privacy to the feedback.

-Dan

phale's picture

Hello again,

Thought I'd post a follow-up here because the resolution was interesting and in some ways, unpleasant.  I decided that confronting the behavior in the meeting was enough if not, as suggested by HNUT, too much.  I did speak to the direct in person a day later about the incident.  She was adamant that she had done nothing wrong and that she was "allowed" to speak that way.  I stated that she was in fact not and that further outbursts could lead to formal disciplinary actions.

She then complained to my boss.  Who then sat us both down to "discuss the situation".  I agree that in situations where tempers flare, there is almost always two people at fault.  That being said, his reaction said pretty clearly to both me and her that she was correct in saying she is "allowed" to speak in the manner she chose.  More importantly it took my role power out from under me in front of her.  I -know- this was not his intention.  His intention was to have a conversation between two people as people, not manager and subordinate. In my opinion, this approach is misguided and will do a lot of harm.  Had he asked me to, on my own, speak to her "man-to-man", it would've made much more sense. I wish he had followed the advice in the recent interpersonal conflicts cast.

Needless to say I found my boss' behavior unproductive at best.  I've actually dusted off the resume and started looking because of the incident. I'm not sure how to discuss this with my boss without sounding like I'm "threatening to leave" but having his permission to give appropriate feedback to my staff is kind of make-or-break for my willingness to stay in my current role.

What do you think?

Nevergiveup's picture

You have to have a word with your boss to sort it out and give the heads up that you will fire her. Then talk to your staff and tell her it's not acceptable.

Otherwise you will be underminded consistently.