Before becoming a manager, I didn’t realize how much time is spent contacting Human Resources (HR), pushing up issues to upper management and staying on top of corporate policies, just to name a few.
Anytime you start a new job, it’s easy to think that everything will be rainbows and butterflies. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
Let me tell you about a recent discipline issue I had with a direct report named Don (name has been changed).
I asked Don to send me a meeting invitation on two different computer systems we utilize anytime he wants use vacation time.
For one reason or another, Don thought this was “ridiculous” and protested against sending an additional email.
I explained to Don that it helps me forecast the amount of manpower needed so I can adjust the schedule as necessary.
This went on.
Eventually I told him, “I’m not having this conversation with you, this is what I want and I expect for you to do it,” in a firm yet neural tone.
The next day, I called him into my office.
After some initial chatting about the day, our conversation went like this:
Me: * In a serious tone * What happened yesterday will not happen again. I don’t care if you think I am asking you to do something ‘ridiculous’, as your manager, I expect for you to do it…of course if it’s a safety or ethics issue please call me out on it.
Don: * Continued to protest. *
Me: If you need help just let me know.
Don: No, I don’t need help.
Me: Ok, you can either take the help if you need it, or you can be placed on another program.
Don: I’ll go to another program.
Me: Great! When do you want to go?
Don: No, I don’t want to go to another program. I’ve never heard that before. I feel like you’re threatening my job.
Me: No, it’s not a threat. I’m just providing you with options. I want you to be happy and to feel supported. And if it means placing you on another program, I can make that happen.
After this, Don continued to protest, then the conversation ended and he went back to work.
A couple of hours later, I received an apology letter with his full support to the program and me.
Here are some steps I took in addressing this negative behavior:
Address the behavior immediately. This is the toughest step. Let the person(s) know that their behavior is unacceptable.
If you don’t address it now they will continue to act out. Soon others will others will catch on and think that it’s OK to be disrespectful. Don’t let this go. Your future self will thank you for it.
Discuss the negative behavior privately. Always meet with the person in private to discuss bad behavior. Disciplining publicly not only looks bad for you (the manager) but also can damage the rapport you may have with others on the team.
Bring out the big guns. Don’t tolerate bad behavior. As the chosen leader of your team you can remove toxic from your group through reassignment or termination. (I highly suggest speaking with your Human Resources team to make sure you stay within your company’s guidelines.)
Leave a paper trail. Make sure you keep an informal log of conversations and events. This will help you incase the situation gets escalated to upper management, human resources and during performance review discussions if you need to justify a performance rating.
What I learned:
- This conversation should not have carried over into the next day. I should have immediately continued the conversation in my office.
- Sometimes people will mistake kindness for weakness. Stay strong and do not accept disrespect.
As a female manager with a large (all male) team, it’s been a great experience for the most part. Most of the team is very supportive of my vision and ideas to improve the team.
Despite this instance, I’m fortunate to have great bosses and mentors who’ve coached me through tough situations like these. I’m not sharing this story to deter anyone from seeking a management position. I want to make sure you’re aware of some of the challenges that come along with the territory. I want to arm you with some information that may help you if this situation arises for you.
How would you handle this situation? How do you keep your temper in check in tough situations?
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