Maybe there’s something in the air or maybe the planets have shifted, or possibly we’re all just really tired of all of the turmoil. Whatever the cause, there’s an increase in personality-driven, team member conflicts. I’m seeing less patience and intentional conversations, and more clipped, curt, and non-candid conversations with managers and their teams. Whatever the nature, cause, or severity of your team member conflicts, how you as a leader respond says a lot about you, your leadership, and your organization’s culture.
Whatever the nature, cause, or severity of your team member conflicts, how you as a leader respond says a lot about you, your leadership, and your organization’s culture.
Last week I had conversations with two different mid-level managers in two different organizations. Both shared surprisingly similar, and disappointing, experiences.
In response to my casual question, “So, how are things going?” Tina, the first manager shared, “Well, I got reamed out by Joann (i.e., the Director) earlier this week. For almost an hour she accused me of not being a team player, not being engaged, and not being committed to our mission. And those were just the highlights. She shared other completely untrue and out-of-nowhere allegations about me and my work. It was almost one full hour of her talking at me. I wasn’t asked for or allowed to comment. I sat there stunned. Let’s just say, I’m still trying to process that whole situation. In the 2.5 years I’ve worked here, Joann has only ever complimented me on my work, told me I’ve been a godsend to the team, thanked me for developing my position into something it’s never been before, and on and on. Granted, because she’s not my direct boss, Sheila is, I can only assume Sheila is feeding her this information as Joann said things that only Sheila would know. Sheila just sat there as Joann went off. Sheila and I have had three minor clashes in the past, but we’ve always talked through our differences, and I thought we came out stronger as a result. Things have been really challenging and deadlines have been tight lately, so I know Joann’s under a lot of stress. But wow. I’d heard rumors about her before I started working here, but I’d never seen this side of her. Let’s just say, I’m walking on eggshells around here as I think about my future.”
Dane, the second manager, a coaching client, was still whirling from news he’d just received when we talked. Jim, the CEO, had stuck his head in the door of Dane’s office on his way out of the building. Jim casually mentioned that he’d just selected Dane’s new boss – Ryan. Then Jim left. No comments, no questions, no additional information. Ryan has no experience in the department’s areas of responsibility nor does he have any leadership experience. Ryan is, however, a friend of Dane’s former boss. Dane had planned to apply for the position. He’d told his former boss and Jim that he wanted to apply for the position so he could better support Jim in moving various strategic initiatives forward. Jim apparently thought otherwise. As Dane said, “I knew we weren’t buddies, and we’re never going to be buddies. But gosh. I thought he’d at least have the courtesy to tell me to my face he didn’t think I was right for the job. This just reinforces to me that he wants my work and what my team and I produce, but he doesn’t want to have to deal with me directly.”
Are both of these managers without fault? No. Could both improve their communications skills to better read the room and interact more effectively with others? Of course. We all could. However, regardless of how challenging a team member is, there are few instances when it’s right for a senior leader to ream out a team member for almost an hour without warning and without providing them time to process, comment, or ask questions. It’s also just plain cowardly to not discuss why a team member was not given an opportunity to apply for a position when you know they want it.
How you choose to interact with team members whose personalities are a challenge for you or for their immediate supervisors to manage, speaks volumes about your leadership skills.
So why am I sharing these two stories with you? How you choose to interact with team members whose personalities are a challenge for you or for their immediate supervisors to manage, speaks volumes about your leadership skills. And your actions are telling me you need to develop stronger leadership skills yourself and within your leadership team.
- If your managers are elevating personnel issues and personality conflicts to you to handle because they don’t know how or can’t handle them themselves, you need to focus on developing your managers’ leadership and people skills.
- If your managers can’t comfortably provide real-time, candid feedback to team members to help them communicate better or interact with you and other managers more effectively, you need to provide coaching and other developmental support for your managers so they gain these critical skills.
- If your managers are afraid of conflict and don’t address challenging behaviors directly and honestly, again, they need coaching and training, and you also need to focus on changing your team’s culture so candid conversations are encouraged and allowed, and differing opinions are not squelched.
How you manage team and personality clashes says a lot about you, your leadership, and your organization’s culture. Why not work to develop leaders and an organizational culture that addresses personality clashes proactively and positively so you can keep talented team members? All you have to lose is their respect, trust, and talent.
Copyright MMXXII – Liz Weber, CMC, CSP – Weber Business Services, LLC – www.WBSLLC.com +1.717.597.8890
Liz supports clients with strategic and succession planning, as well as leadership training and executive coaching. Learn more about Liz on LinkedIn!