Chapter 07: Dealing with Dissidents
Of course, there is more than one kind of disruption in any team and there is more than one type of problematic member. So the way you deal with insubordination is going to depend on the scenario.
In this chapter, we’ll look at some options. These will start with the first and most desirable options you have available to you and end with the final and most regretful options.
The first option is to welcome the challenge. If someone is not happy with your leadership or the direction you’re taking the team, then you could view this as a valid concern. They clearly must have some motivation for not liking the way things are going and that is useful information to you. They have a divergent opinion so instead of staying glued to your confirmation balance – listen to what they have to say and invite them to suggest an alternative option. Often this will take someone so much by surprise that it can earn you instant success.
Better yet, take someone who is trying to encourage more people to side against you and put them in a position of power and responsibility. This is a technique called ‘transformismo’ that was championed by the Italian ruler Mussolini. It’s the perfect solution because it a) demonstrates to that person the difficulty of being in your position and shows them that leadership is not so easy as they might like to make out and b) busies them to the point where they can’t become problematic.
Or as Sun Tsu put it: keep your enemies close…
Explain and Use Social Influence
Another thing to do is to explain to the person who is behaving inappropriately the damage that they are doing not only to the organization but also themselves and the team. This is once again the power of ‘why’.
If someone is going out for longer cigarette breaks for example, then you should simply explain to them that in doing that, they are forcing their colleagues to pick up their slack. If they value their friendship with those colleagues, then they will not like the thought of this and might reconsider their actions. Likewise, you can explain that it has been noted and that when it comes time for a review, it might hold them back for a promotion.
And again, invite them to make a suggestion. Ask them why they feel the need to spend outside. Ask them what it is they want from this interaction and see if you can come up with an alternative solution. If they feel they can’t stand being in the office, then perhaps you need to change the layout of the office? Again, this is a highly effective method as if they feel they’re being listened to, then they might feel obligated to give a little as well. Better yet, you might be able to successfully remove the problem altogether.
Of course, the temptation here is to make an example of that person and to tell the rest of the team how they’re not pulling their weight. This is a mistake because it will a) make that person feel victimized and b) create disharmony in your ranks that will ultimately be bad for business. What you can do though is to praise those who are putting in more hours and make sure that they know that you’re aware in the difference between their efforts and those of their lackadaisical colleagues.
Carrying Out Punishment
One thing you must never do is to shout, get angry or get upset. If you rant and rave at your subordinate, then it will make you appear despotic and it will make the person you are shouting to feel victimized. This can result in people eventually feeling the need to ‘stand up to you’ and could potentially result in a full-scale mutiny.
Moreover, what you’re doing here is to completely misunderstand the terms of the agreement between you and your team members (this is a little different for parents).
Ultimately, when you are in charge of someone in a work setting, it only means that they agreed to work for your organization. It doesn’t mean you have supreme authority over them and you certainly don’t, have the right to reprimand them as a child. You might be their ‘superior’ in terms of work hierarchy but you are equal in reality. So what is really going on here is an agreement – the agreement is that they will do what you ask (within reason) in exchange for payment and workplace satisfaction.
If that agreement doesn’t work out, then either of you has the right to terminate it at any time. But you do not have the right to make them feel small.
This is why it’s highly important not to make this permanent and not to make it look as though you have lost your cool. Instead, just keep things polite and civil but carry out what you have to do. And the easiest way to do that? That would be to have a clear set of rules and repercussions for not following those rules. For instance: people caught not working their full set of hours will be required to make up those hours in the evenings and weekends.
With a clearly defined set of actions and outcomes, you can carry out what needs to be done in a cool and collected fashion without making it personal and without it ever seeming ‘unfair’. It’s the same rule for everyone, they had prior warning and you are simply following a predefined set of instructions.
This is one more reason not to become ‘too’ chummy with your team though – it can make it hard when you do have to take this kind of action and it can lead to accusations of favouritism or personal feelings getting in the, way.
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