Hi. I am a CEO of a medium sized charity, and I have a skip direct who is a Manager in our organisation. Let's call him Joe. Joe has behaved very poorly during a period of layoffs. He went out drinking with his directs and other delivery level staff (that's fine!), and as part of this joined in with gossip and rumours. Following that, he was unprofessional with his own Manager - Nick - shouting at him and accusing him of "being the face" of the restructure and colluding with Them. Nick is one of three in the Senior Leadership Team, so I assume Them refers to myself and my Deputy. Joe seems to be bought into a number of conspiracy theories around what's going on, and said he doesn't want to have to take any responsibility for this. 

The layoffs are due to financial mismanagement by the previous senior leadership team. They are being handled with care, sensitivity and support. They are also very minimal - reduced from having to lose potentially a dozen staff to just one. The Union said they were the best managed they had ever seen and commended what we are doing to our staff. I have no doubt whatsoever in my mind that we have been full of integrity and done everything we could to minimise. No one likes making layoffs, even one.

Joe is very popular and I previously thought him to be a high performer. No one is excusing his behaviour, however they are maybe rationalising and making reasons - he is finding this hard, he seems low. But the impact of his behaviour upon Nick and my deputy has been significant. They feel deflated, disrespected and hurt. They have been exceptional throughout this, acting with integrity and taking their responsibility to see this through. They are tired and wearing a huge load and this behaviour has blown a hole through everything as well as undermined the rest of the management team to the staff. I am extremely disappointed.

I am spending my weekend wondering what my next steps with Joe are. I do not want to undermine Nick as his manager. Nick is going to talk to him next week but in my gut I feel I need to have a conversation with Joe about professional workplace behaviour, how we show up in our workplace, and what he intends to do to rectify the damage he has caused. He is early in his career and it is his first management role. But I am left wondering if management is for him giving the scale of reaction and behaviour demonstrated. Everyone wants the title but they don't always want the work hey. What would you do, any thoughts?

jrb3's picture
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BLUF: In my opinion, if Joe's damage threatens the organization from outside reactions, the Senior Leadership Team of course get to act as a unit.  Otherwise, support Nick as he handles his direct as an internal matter.

I'd think it reasonable to do just about anything with Joe, up to and including letting him not have to take any responsibility by letting him go before the layoff -- tearing down the team and acting contrary to the duties of his role.  If Nick thinks he's salvageable and can keep a working relationship, an improvement program including Manager Tools trainings and podcast listenings could complement the talking-to.  "Welcome to 'They' -- Professional Subordination" and "Can I Be Friends With My Directs?" seem to me most pointedly appropriate to assign as lead podcasts ... see the Map of the Universe under "Hall of Fame > Managing Your Team > Relationships > " for both.

It's more open to debate whether you act instead of (or before) Nick does.  My own experience from a much smaller scope prompts me to suggest bolstering Nick in handling Joe, and re-inflating the management team -- whatever helps reassure *you* that they all can continue to operate with their integrity unblemished, visibly so.

LEmerson's picture

I didn't see anything about direct communications with the parties. Have you dealt with this among the parties straight on? It looks like they went out and had some drinks and sombody blurted out something. There's always going to be friction in these kinds of situations. If you haven't done so I'd recommend having direct meetings as a group or one on one with each, whatever you think is best. I'll bet a lot of your assumptions will change.

Protocol would definitely include first informing Joe's manager and maybe a meeting with all three. I'd recommend getting control of this right away. People are uncertain right now and they're going to make up negative scenarios for the future. The best way to demolish the rumor mill is to openly discuss things.

sandwell's picture

Thank you everyone for your comments they were super useful.

Communication with parties involved - yes, that was already in hand and I had spoken with their managers who discussed this directly with all there as part of O3s. 

as an update, I met directly with Joe and had a very good convo with him about behaviour and expected standards. I did discover, or maybe more ponder further something I already knew, something different to initial assumptions which is Nick's role in it all. Nick is a dictionary definition I. On reflection and chatting with Joe, whilst his behaviour was unprofessional, also Nick's overreaction to what he actually said and escalation of it from his actual words (Joe is a D - direct and blunt sometimes), to how Nick perceived them and added meaning, meant what he actually had to say was misrepresented through Nick's insecurities. So the conspiracy theory aspects were really Nick's. Which makes perfect sense on reflection. 

it's NICK who is worried he looks like he is with "them" (senior management) and not "us" (coordinators). And he is supposed to be part of the senior team but obviously struggling with the responsibility of decisions he is part of (although he is an I, he loves making the decisions!!) 

really useful though thanks so much. I did post a response before but pressed the wrong button to send!