I just received a question asking what to do when you feel your team - your people - are talking behind your back because of a decision you made.  

First and foremost work from the facts.  If you’re a manager, people are always talking behind your back.  People always talk about the boss.  Get used to it.  If you hear exactly what they’re saying about you, you have facts to work with.  Without those facts you only have what’s going on in your imagination.  Don’t go there.  You’ll only frustrate yourself because as the old saying goes, “92% of what you worry about never comes to pass.” 

Find out how unhappy the team is with your decision.  Get facts.  Either meet with several team members individually to ask them how they are dealing with your decision or, bring the team together at another meeting and ask them as a group.  In either case you must be prepared to listen attentively to what they have to say without judgment.  Once you’ve heard them out, and have proven that you have a grasp of their concerns (see “Repeat Back” in The People Manager’s Survival Guide) you can state your position regarding why your decision is necessary.  Or, you can take this opportunity to modify your decision.  Your goal is to achieve a level of understanding, if not accommodation, so that you can all move forward – willingly – in the same direction.

There may be several reasons why a team resists or hesitates about a decision that was thrust on them.  It may be the mere fact that the decision was thrust on them – without their input.  Forcing a decision on a team often shows a lack of respect for the knowledge the team members have.  It may be that the team thinks this is a big change and they need time to reflect on how they are going to implement the change.  It may be because the decision is just wrong and they are wondering if the boss knows what he’s doing.  It may be that they don’t have enough background information to understand why the decision is necessary.  And the last thing that comes to mind is that the team will resist if they are heavily worked and you’ve just added more work to their plate with the decision that you’ve made.

I often find that managers who are moved into a new responsibility don’t know exactly how the people in their new department actually do what they do – or why.  Oftentimes a team will develop methods over years and will have found what works.  Managers are prone to want to institute their own processes without considering why the team has settled on the methods they use.  Make sure you understand how your decision will impact the way your team does their work.  Not knowing this information may cause your decision to create undesirable, unintended consequences.

7/21/2015 07:37:45 pm


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