I recently took over as a new bank branch manager in a new company. Often, I find when I come in to take over, there are typically a few employees that try to take advantage of the change in leadership. I have 4 directs, one of which is a manager who has 5 directs of her own.

Early on, I was able to identify a lack of ownership of her directs, and quickly found myself in defense of her decisions and constantly having to squash negativity and gossip. I’ve been in place for about a month, mostly stuck in training classes, and the situation has now escalated into full on mutiny. I spend about an hour a day one on one with my direct and I find her to be extremely responsive and open to my feedback. I can see that she has some opportunities, and she is a new leader, so I can understand how a lack of insight kept her from seeing what was brewing before it boiled over, but she did not destroy the team single-handedly.

I’ve been meeting with my skips and they all have complaints about her, but every single one of them acknowledges that they do believe her intent is good, and that they have never given her this feedback. I want to make sure that my skips know that I take their feedback seriously, but that they need to take responsibility for the problems in the branch and see that they have contributed significantly to the creation of the toxic work environment.

I had a one on one with one of the skips that I believe to be most at fault for the situation, and once I heard his story about how more seniored employees were complaining around him starting day one of his training, and the amount of drama and gossip he was pulled into, I could understand how this could set the tone for a really negative experience. I then moved into specific feedback about how I have seen him contribute to the problem and expressed my concern that he may not be able to get on board with my plan to make a culture shift. He agreed and plans to leave.

I have a couple more of these one on ones to do, and I plan on giving the same direct feedback to everyone around the shared responsibility of the problems. I’m questioning how to continue to handle the negative feedback about my direct. Most of the feedback I get sounds terrible at first, but when we discuss further, it typically boils down to a miscommunication blown out of proportion. I want to express empathy, but at the same time, I’m angered that my skips are creating mountains out of molehills and I want to hold them accountable. What could I say that would help my skips to understand their fault in the situation?

Also, I’m about to go back into training, what can I do while out of pocket for a month to ensure that the team moves in the right direction? I considered weekly one on ones with my skips over the next 4 weeks, and assigning extra work to my skips to keep them busy and not gossiping. I could communicate with them via email while in training, and I’ll be meeting with my direct daily during this time. What should I say or ask my direct to keep her on the right track? How else can I ensure the team moves in the right direction without me?

mrreliable's picture

It's impossible to know exactly what's going on from your description, but I'm going to be very honest. It seems you're focusing not on specific behaviors, but on vague impressions and attitudes, which are difficult to define. Most of the manager tools are based on working with specific behaviors. I'd recommend listening to, or re-listening, to the podcasts on feedback.

With regard to going away for a while, there's a podcast on that too. I had a real hard time with my directs once when I took a couple weeks off. I still joke with them about "don't go rearranging the furniture" while I'm gone. If you don't structure their time, you never know what you're going to come back to, and it's likely it won't be good.