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Please allow me to give a little back story before I come to the problem. :)

I have been with my company for nearly 7 years; I was also one of the first employees within their customer service department. Over the years, I have seen changes, new systems, different managers, employees, etc. come and go. Our department had one really good manager a few years back who created a lot of structure and instilled a lot of new policies that helped our department run properly. Some of these policies included an attendance policy, cell phone usage, etc. Since she has left the company, many of the policies have been "forgotten" and the department has gotten rather out of control. Many people come and go as they choose, we see people talking on their cell phones repeatedly throughout the day (or texting!), there are extreme attitude problems, and problems with employees making comments in passing meant to be hurtful to other employees, etc., just to name a few of the problems.

Recently, I was promoted to a supervisor along with one of the other girls (she has been with the company a few months longer than I have). We are now experiencing extreme difficulties with those who we used to work with (we now supervise them). I am unsure what the problem is since we previously had great relationships with these girls. We have tried to have an open forum with these girls to see what their feelings were and what they feel we are doing wrong on our end. Essentially, we've been told that we are putting too many policies in place and now the office isn't "fun" any more. The thing is, all of the policies we have recently put into place were ones that used to be there before (note, the "good manager" I mentioned in the above paragraph!). All of the policies we are re-instating we feel are needed because of the distractions and disregard for company policy. We tried to explain the fact that our department's actions have gotten around the company and it was only a matter of time before an Executive or the Catalog President would become involved. Essentially, people did not care. We were told "We don't know what is said from other departments. You've been in our shoes so you can see where we're coming from. We've never been in your shoes, so we can't understand your side." 

I am beginning to feel very frustrated with this situation. There have literally been times that I felt like firing everyone and starting over fresh. The extreme lack of respect from these employees make me feel like I will never get anywhere with them, and having an open forum hasn't helped either. We have tried everything from one-on-one meetings, to having a suggestion box, to having an open forum and nothing is helping. People are continuing in their actions with no regard for how a business should be run (we are paid to work, not goof off all day!). I feel as though people only want to be able to do whatever with no rules in place whatsoever. Although I care about these employees on a personal level, I don't want my job to be at risk because I am allowing people to do whatever they want. These problems are causing distractions for other employees within our department as well as lack of productivity. 

Please help!

naraa's picture

I can understand your frustration.  I think you may find the talk (link bellow) by John Wooden at TED inspiring both for managing the people and also for applying it for yourself.  It was for me.  It is pretty much in line with my believes in managing people and also it is a good summary of how I have evolved as a manager too along the way.  And there are lots of parallel as well with issues thought here at manager-tools.  

You need to decide very well the rules that you need to reinforce and that ones that you can let go.  To quote John Wooden: "Have faith and patience!  Things will work out as they should provided you do the things that you should."

From what you have wrote I guess you may be trying to change too much too quickly and your are getting frustrated by the perspective that you are risking your job by allowing people to do whatever they want.  I find that that is not really the point. The key is to give so much work for people and make them accountable for it, so that they do not have time to do anything else, like talking on the phone or goofing all day long.  Rather than concentrating on what they should not to be doing, concentrate on what they should be doing.  Continue with the one-on-ones, give positive feedback first (I believe manager tools talk about 3 months one-on-ones, then positive feedback, then negative feedback, have you been through all of the steps?), then negative feedback also.

Concentrate on their behaviour and not on their feelings or on your feelings.  And don´t let their behaviour affect your feelings, this only empowers them.  Don´t try, do.  You cannot say I have tried one-on-ones.  Do one-on-ones, and if they still don´t respond, then you will have sufficient grounds for firing people if you need come to it.  I find that the biggest challenge for new supervisors, and I have to say after 10 years of supervising and management it still is a challenge to me, is to hold people accountable: it is to find the balance between rewarding accomplishment and always demanding more and more performance.  It is like high jump: if you set the bar too high to start with, people will just fail again and again and they and you will get frustrated.  If you set the bar too low, it is too easy, you cannot get a thrill out of it.  When you set it just at the right height, that people can barely jump over it, and the bar shakes and almost drops, that is when it is fun and both you and the people working for you get excited about it.  And that is when you can set the bar another 2 cm higher.  

Finally, see the positive from what people are telling you.  If they are telling you: "We don't know what is said from other departments. You've been in our shoes so you can see where we're coming from. We've never been in your shoes, so we can't understand your side."  They are opening the door for you to explain the reasons, they want to be more involved.  You need to find something that will relate to them on the feedback model: when you do this XX , this is what happens YY.  The opinion from other departments or you risk loosing your job is not convincing to them.  Find something that each one of them do care about.

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/john_wooden_on_the_difference_between_winning_and_success.html

I hope it helps. 

Have faith and let us now how it evolves!

Nara

timmeagher's picture

I found myself in a similar position in a few different roles in the past.  Looking back the one bit of advice I would give to you above all others is to Stick With It!

It sounds as if both yourself and the other supervisor have a vision for where the department should be and how to get it there.  Take some time for the two of you to discuss and agree on both the WHAT and the HOW.

Communicate this early and often to the team (which again it sounds like you have done).  When you are challenged (and you will be challenged!) use this opportunity to explain the WHY of the project.  Feel free to share the big vision with the team.  Some managers act as if this is a big secret.  Depending on the circumstance try to proactivly engage with a few key players within the team individually to adress their concerns.  Personally I am not a fan of doing this in a big group, as it is easy to lose the momenteum of the group and the meeting becomes focussed on what is wrong, and not where we are going, in small groups or 1-1 you can control the direction much better.

Once this is in place it is like dealing with a todler, be consistant and fair, but don't let anything slide.  Once you get this consistant and fair approach you will be surprised how quickly everything will change. 

I agree with the comment of your direct, you do know what it is like on the floor, and that is why you beleive you need to change the culture!  Be confident in what you are doing, as those resisting change can smell weakness.  Remember that resistance to change is natural, you are asking others to change their behavior, it will only work when you beleive the benefit of the overall improvement for the department outweighs the costs to the individuals not being able to use mobile phones.  When you were a direct you were probably very similar when first confronted with the different policies, and it was only after you saw the affect they had that you came around.  It is probably this ability to see the bigger picture that means you are a supervisor whilst the others are not.

Keep fighting the good fight

Tim

markbyantaylor's picture

Tim is completely correct with the Stick with it comment.

Could I ask for timeframes?  How long have you been working on this culture change?  While it sounds as if you have been very, very active it is difficult to tell if this is over a week, month, quarter etc.  Are you becoming frustrated because change isn't happening immediately?

I've said culture change as this is a change of behaviour within a group of people - not just an individual.  This can be a very difficult task - but exceptionally rewarding acheivement.  When a team moves on mass to a better culture/ behavior it can be monumenteous - but is rarely a quick process.

May I ask, how many supervisors are there?  Are there more than just you and your friend?  If so, then bring them into this culture change.  You will want consistancy if you can so that your team are not complaining what the team one desk over have different rules.  Engage you manager to endorse the procedures and re-introduce them.

Maybe also look at baby steps.  With an ingrained culture it can be easier to tackle one problem at a time.  For example, mobile phone shall be locked away during shifts - this is not an uncommon procedure in call centres.  It maybe worth you joining a LinkedIn group for Call Centres (or similar) to understand what is normal and expected in your environment (although I do think you already have a good feel for it).

I have to admit my gut feel is to lay down the law and start pointing a few towards the door - but I am high D.

Mark

 

acao162's picture

It sounds to me like 2 problems - you've made the "switch" in your mind to "boss" but your directs haven't quite accepted this yet.  Going from peer to boss is one of the toughest things to do.  The second problem is you are still acting like a co-worker.

Hear me out:  You are trying to act like a boss - implement new policies (or re-start forgotten ones) but you are willing to engage in a discussion about keeping the office "fun".  Yes, you know what it was like to be a co-worker but you aren't one any more. 

Here's what I would (have done) do:  start with a discussion with your co-manager.  Pick 1 policy to focus on, I'd start with arrive on time.  You'll get less discussion because everyone can agree that coming in on time & leaving on time are "fair" rules.  Starting with cell phones opens up a whole range of "gray" reasons why a person might argue the point. 

Enforce the policy.  In other words, tell your people what time they are expected to be ready to work.  Not arrive, but work. Some people like a 15 min "coffee time" before the day starts, others can breeze in 5 minutes before opening & be productive at 9:00 a.m.  The key is "productive".  If the 8:55 a.m. person takes a 15 min "coffee time", they are not productive until 9:10. 

Once you have set the expectation, do not remind multiple times.  Let the late comer know that the behaviour is not acceptable and ask for commitment to the expectation.  "Jane, you were 5 minutes late today.  I need you to be on time every day."  Be willing to listen to some grouching - kids, sitters, traffic etc.  Ask person to think about how they can accomplish the goal.  (Leave earlier, different commute etc). 

Next, to re-inforce the habit, I'd start scheduling a team meeting at your start time - 9:00 a.m.  Now when they are late, they are impacting the team. 

Then move on to other behaviours/policies.  Baby steps and be willing to let people go who can't meet the expectation.

acao162's picture

It sounds to me like 2 problems - you've made the "switch" in your mind to "boss" but your directs haven't quite accepted this yet.  Going from peer to boss is one of the toughest things to do.  The second problem is you are still acting like a co-worker.

Hear me out:  You are trying to act like a boss - implement new policies (or re-start forgotten ones) but you are willing to engage in a discussion about keeping the office "fun".  Yes, you know what it was like to be a co-worker but you aren't one any more. 

Here's what I would (have done) do:  start with a discussion with your co-manager.  Pick 1 policy to focus on, I'd start with arrive on time.  You'll get less discussion because everyone can agree that coming in on time & leaving on time are "fair" rules.  Starting with cell phones opens up a whole range of "gray" reasons why a person might argue the point. 

Enforce the policy.  In other words, tell your people what time they are expected to be ready to work.  Not arrive, but work. Some people like a 15 min "coffee time" before the day starts, others can breeze in 5 minutes before opening & be productive at 9:00 a.m.  The key is "productive".  If the 8:55 a.m. person takes a 15 min "coffee time", they are not productive until 9:10. 

Once you have set the expectation, do not remind multiple times.  Let the late comer know that the behaviour is not acceptable and ask for commitment to the expectation.  "Jane, you were 5 minutes late today.  I need you to be on time every day."  Be willing to listen to some grouching - kids, sitters, traffic etc.  Ask person to think about how they can accomplish the goal.  (Leave earlier, different commute etc). 

Next, to re-inforce the habit, I'd start scheduling a team meeting at your start time - 9:00 a.m.  Now when they are late, they are impacting the team. 

Then move on to other behaviours/policies.  Baby steps and be willing to let people go who can't meet the expectation.

acrabtree82's picture

Thank you all for the encouragement. It was truly needed!

Mark: We were promoted mid-January of this year. We have "re-instated" 8 policies since then (about 3 months?). One other policy has been in place over the course of the last year (an attendance policy). We are not really frustrated with lack of change; more the attitude from directs. After having an open forum last Friday, we both got the cold shoulder all day today. This didn't really bother us too much since it seems more work got done, but the negative attitudes are beginning to get old. We tried instating a cell phone policy (which is technically company policy to begin with) and we actually had one direct refuse to adhere to it or sign it.

Our department consists of a Manager (who was just hired last month), 2 supervisors, 1 Team Lead, 8 customer service reps, and 6 analysts. The analysts are the ones we are having problems with. All of these girs have been with the company the longest and were promoted from CSR positions into the analyst positions they hold now. We don't know if these attitudes come from the lack of structure that has gone on too long or a sense of comfort in their positions. Maybe they feel as if they are irreplaceable?

mlgreen153's picture

Loads of good advice here!  I've been exactly where you are as a new supervisor in a CS department, and it's a tough spot. You're smart to focus on the company's existing procedures first. You'll get support from higher-ups if / when there's any push back.

Based on your most recent post, this is what I see as the most pressing issue: 

You want to address the refusal to adhere to / sign the policy statement. First, I would go over the document again with this person individually, answering any concerns they may have. Have you already put a plan in place to handle family emergencies? 

If the person continues to push back, use the feedback model: "When you refuse to adhere to, or sign, the company's policy document, here's what happens...." 

If there's no agreement, it's important to document that. Stay factual and write on the policy statement that the person doesn't want to sign their agreement to the policy. Sign and date it. Ask if they would like to sign that they are refusing. They probably will - it's something they believe in strongly and they want their opinion to be heard. 

At this point, you can be sure they know what is expected, and what will happen if they don't comply. Now you have to follow through. The rest of the team will be watching to see what you do. 

By the way, you mentioned earlier "employees making comments in passing meant to be hurtful to other employees" The company handbook probably addresses the issue of a hostile work environment or harassment. It sounds like you might need to mention it to a couple people during your next O3 with them.

Good luck! Mary

acrabtree82's picture

 Thanks for the advice on creating a document of "refusal" for the direct to sign. I hadn't thought of that!

Regarding the cell phone policy, it basically just states that employees are not to use their cell phones unless on break or if an emergency/urgent call comes up. We haven't taken all privileges away, just restricted it to time other than company time. In fact, they are permitted to have the phones at their desk. We have even allowed our analysts (those not taking incoming calls) to listen to music on their phones. 

We are scheduled to meet with our HR department on some of these issues tomorrow. We will definitely be bringing up the hostile work environment issue as well as many others as I'm sure you can tell. :)

I appreciate the time that everyone has given to give some insight and share their expertise with me! It is truly appreciated and it's given me the extra motivation to continue on with the direction we feel the department needs to head towards. :)

naraa's picture

 I think you are actually in the right direction and have probably accomplish a lot more than you think.  If the problem is attitude from most of the directs and not behaviour you don't really have a problem outside.  The problem is really inside of you, you must be able to deal with and not care about the cold shoulder.  Three months is a very short time.  Most people will adjust.  Focus on behaviour and feedback about behaviour.  By manager tools recomendations you should be in positive only feedback still.  You will be surprised how far positive feedback can take you, concentrate on those doing the right thing and reinforce and reward that behaviour through positive feedback.  Don't start yet with negative feedback.

My gut feeling is that three months from now you will look back into this post and wonder why did you worry só much then and you will think your directs, át. Least most of them are not as difficult as you thought!

AB_76's picture

I'm new here & just read this thread.  How are things going now? Which suggestions did you use and what has the response been?