Tough Conversations that Can Save Your Business

It’s nearly 2020, and the days of accepting poor behaviors from leaders that produce results are gone! Most organizations are fighting to keep top-producing employees and managers happy so that they don’t get stolen by the competition. Producing quality goods and services while watching expenses is still critical to the success of businesses, but providing a healthy work environment isn’t a “nice to have” anymore. It is expected!

Sadly, toxic managers aren’t entirely a thing of the past.  Negative management practices can thrive in a company that has gone through tough times that required workforce cutbacks or pay freezes. Organizations with that kind of history can struggle to modify the behaviors of a handful of managers who still produce good numbers. These are often the managers that were performers when times were tough, so the company rewarded them with management responsibilities and pay increases because there wasn’t any other reward mechanism during those tough times.

How Can You Foster a Behavior Change From a Manager Who Has Been Allowed to Behave Poorly For Years?

It’s never too late to raise your expectations. It just takes time and transparency. The longstanding manager with toxic behaviors needs to be coached the same way that any other employee would be guided through the behavior improvement process. This process can’t begin until employees know that it is safe to report unacceptable behaviors from their manager.

All employees need to know that your organization won’t tolerate toxic behaviors – from anyone – especially managers. A bad manager can poison the entire department with bad attitudes. When a department gets a reputation for absenteeism, turnover, despair and frustration among the team, it’s time to look to the manager. True instances of manager bullying can even escalate to violent or harassing behaviors if left unchecked.

Ask Employees for Feedback

Don’t wait until you’ve seen an entire department turnover. When you see the beginnings of transfers or resignations – ask questions. Exit Interviews are a great practice when employees leave any position in your organization (even to take another position in the company.) Many organizations are incorporating Stay Interviews into their common practice too – just so that they can identify challenge areas before top talent goes elsewhere. These interviews can be more productive when they take place with the HR office or an objective third party – so that the employee can speak more freely about the behaviors and practices within their department. 360 reviews are another great tool to get a read on how managers are serving their teams.

Engage in the Tough Conversations with Transparency 

In some cases, it will become necessary to initiate the conflict resolution process. When friction between individuals becomes more than just dislike and the workplace is being affected, action is required. This can be tough to do when you have a group of peers that are struggling to maintain a healthy work environment. The challenge increases when the involved parties include a supervisor and their direct report. It is often better to invite a third party to investigate these situations and have transparent conversations based on facts.

Transparent conflict resolution conversations will identify the issues and develop a plan to modify the expectations of the involved parties moving forward. A manager that has grown through the ranks and been allowed to behave poorly for any length of time may be resistant to the new expectations if they’ve never been held to a higher standard. Organizations need to be consistent in enforcing the performance and behavior expectations of all employees regardless of the employees rank within the organization or performance history.

We know that these investigations and conversations need to be done in a timely and fair manner and that it is often difficult to manage the process internally. When dealing with a potentially costly employee situation, it can be more effective to use a neutral third party to conduct the investigation. Contact EANE to learn more about our comprehensive dispute resolution techniques and knowledgeable in the handling of workplace conflicts.