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I am a new manager for an organization that is going through some tough times. One of my employees was over heard saying "We're going to get rid of him (me) the same way we got rid of Jason (my boss)". Jason was recently let go for unknown reasons.

This information was given to me from a executive level director, Amy.

Should I confront this employee? If so, what do I say? And should I ask Amy if it's ok to use that information?

James Cowen

tlhausmann's picture

Ouch. As a new manager (your post doesn't indicate how new) to what extent are you conducting regular staff meetings and/or one-on-ones?

When challenged by a similar situation (a long time ago) the only arrows in my quiver were communication and results. Communication started through regular staff meetings so everyone on the team knew about new directions. I expected results from the team because "status quo" for our group was unsatisfactory.

The team achieved new results very quickly and the "new way" yielded benefits.

Until the pushback was personally witnessed by me or I was confronted directly the behavior was hard to address. Finally, a flare-up occurred during a small group meeting and I started a cycle of coaching.

jhack's picture

Employees often overestimate their influence (roosters taking credit for the dawn). thausman is spot on: one on ones, staff meetings, feedback and coaching get results. Managers who perform are rarely let go.

You also need to address the tough times directly. Without knowing details, it's hard to make recommendations.

John

bflynn's picture

Feedback, feedback, feedback. Systemic feedback if needed. Coaching.

Not yet, but if it becomes necessary to let the person go, the reason should not be hushed up. This person is breaking down the culture of trust and respect in your company. In cases like this, people do not get to quietly leave in the night to pursue other opportunities. They do not resign for personal reasons. They are put in front of a firing squad and publicly shot as an example of the types of behavior that are not tolerated at your company.

Others disagree with me on this. But I believe culture building is very serious.

Brian

WillDuke's picture

You have nothing to gain by seeking this out and "dealing" with it. Like the others said just get on with your job. Do your management, get your results. If the direct challenges you directly, or exhibits behavior that needs feedback, give feedback. You don't need to swing the hammer for everyone to know you have it. :)

O3s, Feedback, Coaching.

US41's picture

OK, so your reports are talking smack about you behind your back. And?

We're managers. Our folks are always talking about us behind our backs. They can't say those things to our fronts - we'll probably say something in response that holds them accountable for what they say and believe, and then they will only have themselves to blame.

O3's, feedback, and coaching will either shut that nonsense down or quickly identify for you if someone is not able to perform.

I have to say I would be mighty tempted during a staff meeting to say, "...besides, I have to get busy or you'll never get rid of me as fast as you did that last guy, and your metrics will be blown." and then laugh.

bflynn's picture

[quote="tlhausmann"]Ouch. As a new manager (your post doesn't indicate how new) to what extent are you conducting regular staff meetings and/or one-on-ones?[/quote]

After additional thinking I have to agree this is probably key. Good regular communications will be necessary to combat whatever is going on in the background. It is probably only a few people talking that way and the rest are looking at you to see whether you deserve your position. By constantly sending the same messages, they'll follow you and not the "rebels".

Brian

tlhausmann's picture

[quote="bflynn"]By constantly sending the same messages, they'll follow you and not the "rebels".
Brian[/quote]

Yes. One particular case came up many years ago when I was *the* new manager and a direct insisted that "things were always done [a different] way".

I was brought in to make changes and reshape the operation but I respected that person and his position. I wish you the best of good fortune in your new position James.

ascott's picture

As a new manager you have an opportunity to send a very powerful message.

His actions constitute insubordination in the workplace. Impose progressive discipline (i.e. letter of reprimand documenting the conduct). Then move on and do your job.

I think many others who have responded here are missing something I learned the hard way - most of the other employees are pi**ed that guys like this get away with all the stuff they pull and they secretly like it when they get smacked down.

I would never suggest anything too Machiavellian though - like simultaneously rewarding his peers somehow to further isolate him. That would be wrong. :wink:

jhack's picture

As a manager, you don't need to "send a very powerful messasge."

You didn't observe anything; you heard a rumor. Nothing to document.

This is not a sport and you don't need to please the audience. They need to grow up, too.

Take the high road. Don't stoop to conquer.

John

ascott's picture

[quote="jhack"]As a manager, you don't need to "send a very powerful messasge."

You didn't observe anything; you heard a rumor. Nothing to document. [/quote]

The original post indicates that a first hand report was received from another manager. This is not rumour, but a first hand observation that is actionable.

Also, I don't think discussions of "high" or "low" roads are appropriate. The imposition of discipline in the work place is often written off in such a pejorative way, but like everything else it is merely a tool. Each organization will be different, but in mine (the only one about which I can accurately speak) the application of progressive discipline in this case would be appropriate.

garyslinger's picture

[quote="ascott"][quote="jhack"]As a manager, you don't need to "send a very powerful messasge."

You didn't observe anything; you heard a rumor. Nothing to document. [/quote]

The original post indicates that a first hand report was received from another manager. This is not rumour, but a first hand observation that is actionable.

Also, I don't think discussions of "high" or "low" roads are appropriate. The imposition of discipline in the work place is often written off in such a pejorative way, but like everything else it is merely a tool. Each organization will be different, but in mine (the only one about which I can accurately speak) the application of progressive discipline in this case would be appropriate.[/quote]

So, would you support your manager taking progressive disciplinary action against you give your ongoing failure with the EQ test?

The report from the other person, even based on their having seen and heard it themselves, is still something that you yourself have not witnessed. That was covered in the podcast on that stuff - but as you're only listening to the last 30 minutes of them, you may have missed that.

ascott's picture

[quote="garyslinger"]So, would you support your manager taking progressive disciplinary action against you give your ongoing failure with the EQ test?

The report from the other person, even based on their having seen and heard it themselves, is still something that you yourself have not witnessed. That was covered in the podcast on that stuff - but as you're only listening to the last 30 minutes of them, you may have missed that.[/quote]

Oooh...an [i]ad hominem [/i]attack and a [i]non sequitur[/i], all in one reply! Very economical, that.

Mr. Cowen (you remember him, the original poster seeking assistance?) could be forgiven for thinking this thread was about me, not him. Alas, I'll answer all the same:

1. I did take the test, but was unable to respond to some questions, and dutifully made a full report to my superior and the situation is currently being managed according to his direction. Thanks for asking.

2. Perhaps your jurisdiction has enacted labor laws that differ from ours, but where the information comes from is not so important as whether or not it is true. In this case, an "executive level director" suffices. As I said, your planet may differ. On mine, threatening to "get rid of" your boss doesn't get a brush off.

jhack's picture

James,

One should be very hesitant to act on behavior not directly observed. Nuance gets lost in translation. The gossiper has motives and biases of their own. and sometimes, it's simply misunderstood.

No one on this thread is suggesting an undisciplined workplace.

The issue is simply this: how to establish a good relationship with your team. You do that by meeting with them one on one, every week. By providing effective feedback. By coaching them, delegating, etc. And when the team performs well, you're in good shape.

John

PS: in the rare event that you have a true psychopath on your staff, you will still be best positioned by employing the trinity.

garyslinger's picture

[quote="ascott"]Oooh...an [i]ad hominem [/i]attack and a [i]non sequitur[/i], all in one reply! Very economical, that.[/quote]
Neither ad hominem (I posited a possible action in view of the proposed approach you're suggesting your company follows, rather than attacking you personally), nor a non-sequitur (it related directly to your post, and how you felt about other actions in relation to it); unlike your "your planet" comment, which [i]is[/i] ad hominem, so I'll just leave you to it.

G.

regas14's picture

Ascott & Gary,

I appreciate your difference of opinions on this matter. I can certainly imagine the past and current circumstances which would cause you to arrive at your current positions. They are definitely valid conclusions one could draw.

At this point your writing and my reading on this subject is no longer effective for learning, sharing or growing. I suggest we call it a day on this topic and move on to the areas that we can find common ground or constructive debate.

Thanks,

G.R.

garyslinger's picture

Quite so, and my apologies.
G.

sklosky's picture

JamesCowen,

From reading your post, it seems to me that Amy is "poking you with an umbrella". I'm not sure if you've heard this story or not. The main jist is that how you react is key to this situation. My opinion is that getting mad or defensive or hostile due to this event is simply inefficient, ineffective and will burn your precious brain and time resources rapidly if you let it.

My advice is to ignore it, and like the other forum folks say, focus on accomplishments and results. Use communication with directs and communication with your boss to your best advantage.

Good luck,
Steve

ascott's picture

[quote="regas14"] I suggest we call it a day on this topic and move on to the areas that we can find common ground or constructive debate.[/quote]

James - Don't ignore it. Decide on how to handle it (taking no action is an action BTW, not ignoring it), and run it by your boss during your next one on one. Whatever you do (or don't do) needs to fit with your organization's culture.

So make a plan, run it up the flagpole, and take your best shot.

Whatever it is. Or isn't.

KS180's picture

This concerns rumours, back stabbing and causing morale problems.

Two employees have come to me to tell me that an employee is spreading rumours about our department being eliminated.

Background:  New manger - here 6 months.  Three employees who worked together for years formed a 'Triad' (their word - not mine) and they protect each others back.  They asked me to join and I politely declined.  Two of the three are now gone and the third is spreading rumours that our section will be eliminated.

How do I get the third in line?  The employees may come forward if I ask them to.

 

DuanePoorman's picture

JamesCowen and KS180,

BLUF: One on ones, staff meetings, and skip level meetings are the keys.  Also, if you haven't listened to the Team Building 101 cast (http://www.manager-tools.com/2007/05/team-building-101), I strongly suggest it. 

Your're both in tough situations.  Like most managers in departments or companies that are struggling, I hear a lot of second hand stories about what others did and said. I find it almost impossible to act on this second hand information.  My standard is not to act on it. That is the standard, and there can be exceptions.  I see nothing in the situations you've presented that warrant an exception.

Good luck and keep us posted.

KTatley's picture

 Hi - your issue sounds quite similar to the issues raised in these two casts:

How To Manage A Disgruntled Non-Promoted Direct 

How To Stop Gossip

I suggest a listen - Mark and Mike provide a good viewpoint on a lot of what has been discussed here. I second that communication via O3s and Feedback are the way to solve it.

A little more on Feedback:

Remember that using the MT Feedback model doesn't require you to be right or have all the facts - you are addressing the behaviour and the behaviour is that you have heard a rumor. So if you factually state to the employee: "Can I give you some feedback, when I hear from a senior source that you have said "We're going to get rid of him (me) the same way we got rid of Jason (my boss)" that makes me worry that maybe there is something behind the rumor and this makes me think that there is a possibility that you are undermining me. This impacts how much I think I can trust you and will directly affect your work, prospects, pay and bonuses in the organisation. I haven't verified if the rumor is true or not and I don't want to spend my time and effort trying to verify facts or to have a discussion on what did or did not happen. What I do want you to do is to refrain from engaging in any future behaviour that might undermine me or my position - can you make the commitment to do that?"

Remember - you are the boss and this is one of the scenarios when it would be OK to use your role power to avoid from getting into a negative discussion about the facts.

I also suggest that you are prepared for possible responses - my theory here is that either they don't have an issue with you and should be ok to make the above commitment or that they really do have an issue and then would struggle to make a commitment. They are quite likely to say something like "But I never said that" - your response should be along the lines of "I'm glad to hear you say that you didn't say that - I'm sure that means you should be fine with doing what I am asking of you. I'll remind you that we are not here to have a discussion about what you said or not - I just want your commitment not to do anything in the future."

They are also very likely to ask who told you what was said - again remind them that you're not having a trial - you are only asking for a future commitment.

 

Note the feedback is mostly in the MT feedback model framework but I have added in the part about not verifying the rumor.