My first management position.  Up until now I've been everyone's buddy and now I'm expected to enforce the rules.  My instructions are clear, "stomp on them as hard as you have to".  I'm willing to do that if it goes that far, but I don't want to make rookie mistakes by coming down too hard when it's not necessary.

They want me to schedule a meeting and make it clear that there will be no discussion and that we are just informing them of policy changes.  We are tightening up uniform standards and banning cell phones, among other things.  I've tested the waters and there is likely to be back talk at this meeting.  I simply will not have it.  The rules are pretty standard everywhere and I'm tempted to tell them if they don't like it then good luck out there.

Any advice about how to handle this situation?

mrreliable's picture

My goodness. "Stomp on them?" No discussion? My way or the highway?

You appear to be all set for a fight and you're digging in your heels already. Not sure what you mean by testing the waters, but you're expecting a disrespectful response. To be honest, it sounds like a terrible employee environment, with terrible attitudes, which would be management's fault. I can't imagine that coming down with an iron fist is going to improve anything.

It looks like the problems with employee performance go far deeper than just rolling out new standards.

Instead of expecting a big fight and thinking about ways to browbeat them into submission, I'd suggest you figure out ways to get the directs to buy in to the plan. Can you imagine how much more productive they'll be if they feel like they've chosen to follow all the new procedures? If there's no room for the employees to blow off a little steam, I'd suggest you're going to have a deeply aggravating run with your new management position.

Be matter of fact without being defensive. These are the new policies, and this is how we're going to implement those policies. If you get some gas, take the opportunity to validate their concerns and let them know you value their opinions, but the policies are the policies. Just like with great customer service representatives fielding a complaint from a customer. The really good ones make the customer feel valued, defuse the situation, and end up with a more loyal customer than they started with.

Good luck.

vgailj's picture

You're right, it is not the most ideal employee environment.  The thing is the've had all the chances in the world to follow the policies and instead took advantage, even with simple thing like showing up on time.  One can only be counted on to show up on time about once a week.  They're a talented group, and I value the contribution of each one of them, but the attitudes have got to go.

pucciot's picture
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Were you really instructed to Stomp ? ... or just enforce policy ?

"I've tested the waters and there is likely to be back talk at this meeting.  I simply will not have it. "


You certainly should have your meeting and present the policies in a matter of fact tone.

Take the emotion out of this -- there is no place for Anger or Stomping in the workplace.

Remember that you are the manager and you are the company.

You can handle a little bit of back talk, but you may wish to take a firm hand on the meeting.

A steel hand in the velvet glove approach.

Try somthing like this :

"Hi everyone, thanks for coming to the meeting.

I know that there has been talk about tighter standards and policies around the office.

And I want to let you know that the decisions about these policies have been made.  

I have been asked to present and enforce these poliices and everyone one of us is expected to comply.

Before I continue ...

** Please, if you have concerns about these policies I will be willing to discuss them with you privately - one on one - not at this meeting, and not in an open forum.

This meeting right now is to present the new policies and come up with ways that they can be followed.

Again - if you have concerns or constructive criticism about these policies ... please wait and hold your comments until we speak one on one.  

It will take too much time and distraction from this meeting to address your concerns.

Now - let's proceed ...   "


---  Then if any of them want to talk about it and complaign and give back talk -- then invite them to discuss it one-on-one with you.  Have the one-on-one with them.

Listen to everything they say -- smile.   If you have somthing you can address - then do so.

If not then, tell them thank you for the input and you will think about it, maybe even bring their concerns to your boss.

Don't get upset just listen.

Watch this :

Good Luck



vgailj's picture

Thank you :)

vgailj's picture

It's a small, family-owned business that is growing fast.  Most of the rules and policies were already there but were being bent and broken on a daily basis.  The teams have been lead with lax hands and instead of appreciating that kind of relaxed environment, most of them took advantage.  They are dismissive of the rules because there aren't really any consequences.  There have always been threats of write-ups but they didn't even have a form to write people up with until I got tapped for this position and created one for them.  A couple of the employees are old timers who are way too comfortable in their positions and get vocal and disrespectful.  I've been told to remind them that no one is irreplaceable.  

The family are nice people, they don't want to deal with any of this.  They are expecting me to be the cop and enforce all the rules.  And "stomp on them..." was the exact quote from the COO.  Not literally and just kidding of course, but it will not bother him one bit for me to tell them to tow the line or get out.

I don't think swinging from one extreme to the other is the best option, that's why I came here for advice.  I am willing to bring the hammer down, I just don't want to until it's necessary.  At the same time I need them all to realize that I will not tolerate these attitudes going forward.

I have called the meeting for tomorrow.  Just me and the teams, no owners or supervisors.  I told them I need to do this on my own.  No babysitters.  I also don't want them interjecting and hijacking the meeting.  I want to lay it all out for my people, co-worker to co-workers, as calmly as I can but I have to be solid on this.  If I waver they won't respect me any more than the do the owners and then I will have to be the bad guy.  I don't want it to come to that.

pucciot's picture
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vgailj :

Please make sure that you listen to the Podcasts here on Manager Tools - and start with the essentials.

Please remember that you will need to start building good relationships - if you get this wrong you might do some damage that will be harder to repair later.

Yes - you need to show managerial courage at the meeting.

-- You are no longer a co-worker  --- you are the voice of the company.

Yes - I recommend that you stick to the policies.  Don't talk about the past --  Don't say tings like "There's a new sheriff in town"

Again, I recommend that you begin the meeting by saying this is an informational meeting, only. 

And any comments, complaints, and constructive criticisms will not be entertained during this meeting, but that you would be happy to meet with everyone individually.  One-on-One.

You are open to listen to everyone -- just not here - and not now.

Start building your relationships.  One at a time.

You don't need to show any more strength than that you are in control of this meeting.

Velvet glove - over a Steel hand.

Please No - Stomping on anyone - especially in front of other people

- Please no dropping hammers.

When (and it will happen) someone tries to interject - just calmly interrupt them I'm sorry Jack - are you asking for a clarification ?- unless they just want you to repeat what you just said or clarify your statement -- then repeat that this is an informational meeting and that you will be happy to meet with him/her later ?

The only strength and power I recommend you enforce here - is power over the meeting. 

Not the content of the meeting.

End the meeting with something like :

"Thank You for listening and for your future and continued compliance with these policies."

"I will have my calendar book open and ready to start making meetings with each of you that would like to express concerns."

--- and yes - be ready with your calendar -- and make sure it is clear.


* You will manage the group by building relationships with the individuals.


Good Luck


mrreliable's picture

Most of the rules and policies were already there but were being bent and broken on a daily basis.  The teams have been lead with lax hands and instead of appreciating that kind of relaxed environment, most of them took advantage.

Again, I'd emphasize that the problem is not your employees taking advantage or otherwise not behaving properly. Until you (your company) takes 100% ownership of the problem and 100% responsibility for fixing it, you're not going to see any change. This is a classic management failure. Pointing out what you consider to be shortcomings of the employees is not going to do anything to fix the management problem.

The folks in your company have expected employees to stumble into good behavior with no guidance. Now the company's growing and problems from the lack of management are multiplying. They're saying to you, "Go get 'em! Squash them if you have to. We're behind you 100%!" Again, these were tasks they refused to take on themselves. I hate to sound pessimistic, but you can't be assured their support for your effort will remain intact once the shooting starts. They've already proven themselves to be afraid to meet management challenges head on. It's not likely they'll suddenly get brave when you're on point.

I'm not sure I agree with the approach of leaving the door open to discuss merits of the new policies in one-on-ones. Instead of saying, "These are the new policies, period. Now let's talk about how we're going to implement those policies and hold everyone accountable," you're inviting all the employees to sit down with you and try to convince you how oppressive the new policies are. If it were me, I'd want to get any battles overwith as soon and as quickly as possible. Rip the bandaid off. Why stretch it out over days or weeks, especially if there's nothing that's going to change the minds of management?

I'm interested to hear how the meeting went.

pucciot's picture
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You have a good point about the "rip the band aid off"

I agree, and...

I think you may have missed the subtlety I was trying to move into. 

My point is to have the big group meeting and present the policies as a done deal --  no discussions - here and now.

Our fellow poster here seemed to be concerned about back talk and discussion during the meeting.

He is a new manager and I suspect had not yet had time to have one on ones with everyone.

My suggestions do two things -- gets this big meeting over with, with no back talk about the policies.

And starts an atmosphere where folks can come to the manager one at a time to express concerns.

The manger does not have to change anything.  

I said just listen to their concerns and comments, one at a time.  This will prevent them ganging-up on him in the large meeting.

It will set the tone for all things to come in an atmosphere where a good tone has not been set.

The suggestion of  "I'd want to get any battles overwith as soon and as quickly as possible."  could be misunderstood as fight the battles in open forum. With everyone that objects right there in front of everyone.

I would not recommend that any battles like this be fought on the open battlefield of a big staff meeting.

There is no Battle over the policies. 

The Policies are the policies and they will be expected to be followed -- from this meeting from now on.  [period]

If the staff members think that there is a battle, they are wrong and they have already lost ...

The Battle is for relationships.

And the best way to address that - is to put the hard work in - now at the beginning to schedule lots of time for them to have a one-on-one open door meeting to express concerns.

It will take lots of time - and hard effort.   

And it will pay off later - when the staff looks back and says that this manager :

A ) delivers the hard messages

B ) enforces the hard policies

C ) and is available to listen to concerns

Now - all he has to do is make these in to Weekly One-on-ones (where employees will complain about policies anyway)



vgailj's picture

"The folks in your company have expected employees to stumble into good behavior with no guidance"

I don't understand why these adults need guidance just to be decent humans.  Come to work, do your job, follow the rules, go home.  Why is that so hard?  And I'm not sure you understand what I'm dealing with here.  I've worked since I was about 10 or 11, and I'm 48.  Not once in all that time have I ever heard of a supervisor having to tell an employee to put their friggin shoes on.  I had to do that today.  I work in a professional, medical setting.  This employee had her bare feet out swinging them like she was in her back yard.  What are you three years old??  OSHA much??

Sorry.  Little punchy.  Trying to work 3 or more jobs now and trying to cram them all in the same work day.  My brain is blasted.  I've taken on this management position but I'm still expected to do my old job, plus whatever problems this one that one or the other one brings me.  I'm a little surprised that I'm pretty good at all this, but boy I'm tired.

Meeting went okay.  Not as good as I'd hoped, not as bad as I'd feared.  If I'd said all the stuff I had planned we'd have been in there all day, so I tried to just push through and hit all the most important points as quickly as I could.  I got some mouth from the main one I expected it from.  She's been there the longest and wishes it was still the little mom and pop shop they had before.  She said they never should have handed me all this, meaning either I shouldn't have this job or they should have taken care of it themselves.  Ummm they DID take care of it, they delegated it to ME.  They freed themselves up to concentrate on running and growing their business which benefits us all.  

To be honest my job should have been hers, I've only been there a year and all she had to do was ask, but she never stepped up.  I did.  I never wanted this but I've been pushing for them to hire an office manager since we moved into the new state-of-the art building.  I made it clear I didn't want this position, but when something needed to be done I was the one who took care of it.  All she did was backbite and complain.

I've had some trouble getting some of the staff to understand that everything is different now.  I'd given them some time to adjust, kept joking and nudging.  Now I'm pushing hard.  The family, the owners, have backed my every play and I am getting results.  I'm just so frustrated sometimes.  Getting more confident though.

Lost my temper a little yesterday,  The Mouth left without clearing it with anyone.  She called me later and said she heard I was upset because she didn't tell me she was leaving.  No, I'm upset because you didn't tell any of the supervisors you were leaving and that is pretty much the first rule in the policy.  I didn't yell at her and I wasn't rude but the point was clear.  I don't care how long you've been there, you are not to breeze in and out as you please.  I guess that didn't sit well, she put her notice in the next day.  I am glad.  She knows her stuff but her attitude is horrible, she complains constantly, and she brings everyone down.  She was confusing the staff as well, they were still going to her before they came to me.  I don't want to lose her wealth of experience but a truckload of problems will leave with her.  

You know, I think I'll sip on a drink and then go to bed.  lol  Goodnight

mrreliable's picture

I could have written a nearly identical description of my perspective a few years ago. I started a thread not long ago discussing the phenomenon of people so often being appointed to a manager position without any education or training. “Here’s your mess. Now go take care of it. We’re behind you 100%.” Through experience I’ve learned to break out in a cold sweat whenever anyone says they’re behind me 100%.

I was lucky enough to work closely with an excellent manager who had been successful in the corporate world. Like you, I also thought that because my directs were highly educated professionals and had been thoroughly screened, they should be able to pick up on what I thought were remedial behaviors in the workplace. I had very similar problems to you. My mindset was that you have to choose the right people, period. If you don’t have the right person, all the training in the world isn’t going to do you any good. I had spirited disagreements with this manager over the chicken and the egg. Finally I capitulated to the thought that as smart and accomplished as these people were, I could greatly improve their efficiency and productivity by focusing on my management skills. I changed my approach to one where my foremost goal was to help each of my directs to become as successful as possible.

Delegation is the key. Over time I delegated all the tasks I was performing to my directs, leaving me to concentrate on higher level executive tasks. At first I didn’t believe they could be successful doing my job, but I was wrong. With guidance, written performance parameters, and a true desire to help them succeed, the team turned into a juggernaut. Ironically, I just got back from a production meeting where last year’s results were provided. My team accounted for the top six categories in terms of sales and usage out of a total of 16 overall categories.

I believe your quote says the same thing.

“She said they never should have handed me all this, meaning either I shouldn't have this job or they should have taken care of it themselves.  Ummm they DID take care of it, they delegated it to ME.  They freed themselves up to concentrate on running and growing their business which benefits us all.”

They delegated to you. Now you delegate to your directs. Instead of stomping them, empower them. They’ll not only be a greater benefit to your company, they’ll willingly take a greater degree of accountability.

Our operations manual was about 20 pages long ten years ago. Now, with the help of all personnel, it’s close to 100 pages. At meetings, instead of discussing someone’s idea and talking about how great it was, then forgetting about it as soon as everyone walked out the door, I started to ask them to put together a presentation on the subject for the next meeting. The ultimate acceptance was, “Let’s put it in the manual.” Now it’s the Bible, everyone’s on board, and everyone keeps everyone else accountable (including me – if I go against protocol you can imagine how much gas is blown).

Don’t get discouraged. I also had many moments, maybe sipping a drink, thinking, “What the hell am I doing?” The fact is when we think our life is chaos at the moment, in most cases down the road when we look back it all makes sense.

It sounds like there’s already been a good change. You let everyone know things had changed, and The Mouth saw her control diminishing. Now she has an opportunity to be successful somewhere else. Wish her well.

Keep listening to the podcasts. One nugget I heard that has been valuable was a feedback podcast, where they talked about management being like driving a car. You have a roadmap, you set out driving, and you need to make little adjustments along the way or you’ll end up in the ditch.

You’re there for a reason. Stay with Manager Tools. It’s not about whether your directs know how to keep their shoes on. It’s all about how you manage them.