My question is: Is there anything else I can do to successfully coach two DRs it an appropriate time for disciplinary action for one of them?

I have two employees who recently told me they have had growing resentment toward the other for almost one year. They have been given feedback consistently and, most recently, they were both given feedback on negativity, etc. I routinely hold O3s and, since they are high S personalities with some C, I take longer, allow time for processing, ask questions about their feelings, and provide lengthy explanations of departmental plans, etc. For almost one year, they have given overall positive feedback to me on team dynamics and work environment. Rarely, they might bring forward a mild complaint which was handled by offering explanation & data, or encouraging more open communication with the source of the dissatisfaction. In these cases, I always received confirmation from them that "things were better."

I have offered them opportunity to think and provide me with examples of developmental need in our team; they have done this...just not about each other.

Recently, when their internalized resentment "blew", I heard a host of harsh personal attacks against the other {e.g., she's a liar, she talked rude to me, she will never change, she knows how to play the game, etc.}. When instructed to communicate this to each other {i.e., I gave them ownership of this conflict, because the rest of my team communicates high morale and job satisfaction and no alignment with the feelings of the two DRs in question}, they refused.

To wrap up, when coaching began, hours of meeting time was dedicated to preparation for coaching. Even so, one employee initially refused. When finally agreeing to try coaching {after communicating...this will never work} my employees began the process. Even beginning the process was successful at improving their relationship. One employee can see that success has begun and agrees to coaching. The other employee continues to "nay-say" and demonstrated significant insubordination in front of the other employee.

The "nay-saying" employee is in danger of being written up and my director feels her attitude is currently a "poison"; she continues to resist positive efforts to offer her growth opportunity which my director feels may eventually lead to termination if change does not occur.

I must also say that she is a friend of mine for 14 years; we were friends before we ever worked together. She has worked for me the past six years, and there has never been any disrespect or difficulty with her acknowledgement of my role and the decisions I have to make. She, in the past, has been one of my strongest team members. She has communicated more than once through this process her feelings that I am "not being a good friend." She has received negative feedback previously when appropriate and handled it maturely. An additional director who has become involved believes that the "friendship card" is yet another reflection of poor attitude as he cannot discern any instance when I have modified my leadership technique for our friendship.

I hate to see someone who has consistently been a high performer in such a precarious position.

I try very hard to employ techniques from multiple podcasts and leadership training; the techniques appear to be quite powerful with my other staff. I realize the friendship may be a complicating factor, but I have read "First, Break All the Rules" which encourages close knit relationships in the workplace. I also believe, having known her for so long, that this is very unusual behavior. But I can't seem to make a dent right now...

My director is wanting to write her up on Monday. I just thought take some time this weekend to ask some questions. I am new to this website but hopeful of the manager tools forum. :D

Does anyone have any other ideas or feedback? :idea:

jhack's picture

First, take 30 minutes and listen the "Resolving Conflict" podcast from last year (Aug 14, 2006). Are there recommendations in that podcast that could help?

Second, ask yourself what you would do if she were not your friend. And ask yourself what advice you would give her if you were not her boss. Are these two consistent?

Third, meet with the director on Monday before either of you takes action, and agree on the plan going foward. Your goal is make all the employees more effective and efficient: how can you best do that (whether or not she's written up)?

I have seen friendships end because of work conflicts, and this is a real risk for you here. Your role at work is to be the manager, not the friend. Does she agree that this is your role? If your values and your priorities differ from hers, then your friendship is at risk regardless of whether you work together or not - working together has merely brought the issue to a head.

And, welcome to manager tools. Mark and Mike have created a powerful set of tools, and they are the smartest guys on this topic that I've ever encountered (OK, maybe Peter Drucker is smarter...) but the tools take time and time is your most precious commodity. SO...recognize that events are not entirely in your control (your director is involved now).

Final thought: Do what you think is right and ethical. When you go to bed, you have to fall sleep knowing you've done your best and done the right thing.

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

If I read this right, I'd agree with the director. Write her up. (Please understand that I am using your language, and am generally saying that an escalation to a written warning (in most systems) would be appropriate here.

I'd also tell her that her behavior left unchanged will be a reason for termination.

SAY IT TO HER. She wants you to be her friend...friends NEVER fire friends, right? She needs to understand that you are her manager FIRST.


starbucksandshoes's picture

This is very helpful! In fact, 20 minutes ago I finished listening to "resolving conflict" and took notes. :D

I am very impressed with this site. This provides excellent knowledge and growth opportunity for me.

starbucksandshoes's picture

Are there any good resources on establishing the definition of what friendship means within the confines of the workplace?

I am striving to create something tangible to offer my employee tomorrow during our disciplinary session with her. I thought maybe there was a good resource I could review before answering the "sometimes I am only talking to you as a friend" complaint that I know will be brought forward by her. I WILL tell her that I am her manager FIRST, but I am just trying to do a little extra homework. :)

Thanks! :D

thaGUma's picture

Always a hard one. I have had a couple of workmates who I get on with wonderfully on a social level but are a real pain to work with. I do not subscribe to the belief you have to be harder on those you like. it does pay dividends, I think, to deliberately put yourself into a low-level situation where 'bossman' coems out. Low-level gives you the oppertunity to enact mroe serious situations and define boundaries with friends.

starbucksandshoes's picture

Thanks so much! :D

WillDuke's picture
Training Badge

Be honest with her. Tell her that she's putting herself in jeopardy. It's what you'd do with your other employees, doesn't she deserve the same benefit? The more you try to "be nice" the worse you make it for her. Be up front and honest with her so she can work to save her job.

As for the friendship card, she's clearly trying to manipulate you. How are you not being a good friend?
[list]* Are you the one trying to leverage your friendship?
* Are you trying to use your friendship to get yourself out of a situation that you created yourself?
* Are you asking for preferential treatment?[/list:u]
You aren't creating the situation, you're trying to resolve it. That's the best thing a friend could do. It is also what you should (and probably do) do with all of your employees.

starbucksandshoes's picture

Yes...I have received similar feedback from others.

Thank you very much for your reply.

I also it ever okay to raise your voice, use large gestures, etc. in an effort to create discomfort in a disciplinary situation?

We continually undergo leadership training at my facility and we regularly listen to podcasts. I try to consistently employ techniques learned.

In our leadership training conferences, I don't remember any feedback on escalating nonverbal or verbal behavior when the employee(s) continue to demonstrate negative behaviors that give the manager the conclusion that they are unaffected by encouragement, coaching, adjusting feedback, etc.

I was once told by my director {because I am often consistently happy, supportive, encouraging and the leader of our organization's rewards and recognition process} that sometimes I need to "pound the table." He told me "you never do and sometimes it is necessary."

Is it ever okay to raise your voice to an employee as you are delivering adjusting feedback, etc.?

With the particular issue in question, I discovered that, to this date, there have been over 20 hours of work time dedicated to explaining, supporting, preparing, etc. my two "S" subordinates. Knowing their "S" personalities and knowing that discomfort would be created if I used large gestures, raised my voice, etc., is there ever a time when this might be okay?

Does anyone have feedback on "pounding the table"?

juliahhavener's picture
Licensee Badge

I don't think it's necessary. In most cases, I think it's negative and unprofessional. Your feedback can be very descriptive of the very negative repercussions of their behavior...without yelling or table pounding.

For my part, my dad is never so imposing as when he speaks quietly and deliberately. I know that this means he is exceptionally angry with me and treading lightly is in order. FWIW, 40 years of his employees knew this, too.

juliahhavener's picture
Licensee Badge

Hahaha! As soon as I posted this, I shared it with my mother. She said:

Well, dad says sometimes you just need to lose it and go all out.
Never worked for me. I never yelled.
However, no one has ever had any trouble telling when I was mad.

I guess that would explain how we know when to tread lightly :lol:

jhack's picture

Yelling, fist-pounding, eyes bulging, and other "lose it" behavior is just that: you've lost it. Lost your composure. Lost your professionalism. Lost any control over the situation. It is never appropriate in the workplace.

starbucksandshoes's picture

Thanks very much for the input. I will take this to heart and remember it. It is excellent advice.

starbucksandshoes's picture

Everyone has been very helpful...I really appreciate it. :)

One more question. My two subordinates met with my director today to complain about things of which I have no idea. Quite frankly, it is a bit disheartening to have put such time and effort into offering growth opportunity through feedback and through the coaching process and to be met with continual resistance and progressive negative behaviors.

I have a meeting scheduled with my director tomorrow during which I expect to receive adjusting feedback based on their complaints.

I do want to continue to develop my leadership so I welcome this feedback; its just that the timing is difficult for me as it seems the core issue...the conflict between my two becoming overshadowed by the drama of their response to my coaching. :?

I want to respond in a positive way and one that will not be construed as defensive while still bringing some attention back to the core issue.

Does anyone have any good ideas? Pearls of wisdom, resources, etc.? :)

wendii's picture
Admin Role Badge


I sense you are feeling very disheartened by this situation. You have put in so much effort and the situation is not resolved.

I think, sometimes this will be the case. Sometimes, you will go through all the coaching and feedback in the world and the other person will not change. That is sad, but it is their problem. You can only change yourself, and encourage others to change. You can't change them.

You have been professional, sought help and done the best you can in this situation. You should take pride in that, and not feel a failure because you did not change something you couldn't.


starbucksandshoes's picture're pretty much right on the money. Thanks for the insight and support.

WillDuke's picture
Training Badge

This was another of those occasions where I wrote up a bunch of stuff and deleted it because I changed my mind. :?

I think you should ask yourself if you have handled this situation correctly.

First, did you write up the employee as your director suggested? If not, then feedback from your director is coming your way.

Second, has your friendship with this person impacted the way you have handled the situation. My guess is that it has. If it hadn't, this thread probably wouldn't exist.

Wendii's right, you're trying to do the right thing here. You're utilizing resources like these forums for information. You deserve credit for your efforts.

I say review the history here and own up to what's yours, and what isn't. I'd definitely be preparing for some feedback from the director. I'd be ready with a plan of action for resolving the situation, it will ease your meeting a lot.

starbucksandshoes's picture

Thanks, Will! I appreciate the feedback.

Just to give an update...I am not allowed to write up my employee without my director's consent and participation. My employee is being written up tomorrow at my request due to continued negative behaviors that were not adjusted following consistent feedback and coaching.

Feedback from two supervisory mentors has indicated that a strong contributor to her negativity is the fact that I didn't modify my leadership decisions based on our friendship.

I did have a meeting with my director today and, although my employees did use the open door policy and voice their concerns, their concerns were minimal and without substance. All were easily discussed and were solidly contradicted by documentation I had taken over the course of meetings, conversations, etc.

My director was supportive and offered me positive feedback. :) He was responsive to my request to proceed with the write up and to hold a career ladder increase for 90 days pending improvement in behavior. It was an excellent, constructive meeting and I feel that this has been a great growth opportunity for me. :)

I have really enjoyed hearing from everyone. This is one of the best tools I could imagine to problem solve challenges. Thank you! :D

juliahhavener's picture
Licensee Badge

[quote]I think, sometimes this will be the case. Sometimes, you will go through all the coaching and feedback in the world and the other person will not change. That is sad, but it is their problem. You can only change yourself, and encourage others to change. You can't change them. [/quote]

That is so perfect, I'm quoting it again. Thank you, Wendii. This has been probably THE hardest lesson I've learned, both personally and professionally. It's the one thing I come back to over and over again.

Right now I'm working with a few of my directs on perception and others' perceptions of them and how to manage those things. This is a core piece and it's really where the feedback model shows its power. You aren't ever telling them how to change, only that it's needed, and what happens now (and later what happens when it continues).

starbucksandshoes's picture

That is interesting. When you are discussing issues of perception with your employees and giving feedback, what specific behaviors are you attempting to improve?

juliahhavener's picture
Licensee Badge

I have a couple of younger, less experienced (in a professional setting) folks. They get upset when other people assign their own perceptions of their behaviors. "He was talking to someone instead of working, [therefore] he doesn't do any work." The reality is that he was talking to someone while he was waiting for a long print job to finish - but because he is young, has a different value set than many people, and 'appears cocky' (he's not) it's a perception he has to specifically guard against.

The feedback he gets revolves around his behavior (it's okay if you're waiting for the printer, but wait AT the printer or at your desk or use the other printer), but the coaching tends to revolve around educating him generally about how (other) people think and why it's important to keep that in mind in what you do.

As a High D/I, I'm perfectly aware that I set some people on edge. I ask questions no one else will, I offer opinions others shy away from, and have learned the hard, hard lesson of choosing my battles. I see other people who are High Ds just brazen ahead -- my I side screams against that.

starbucksandshoes's picture

Hmmmm...very interesting. :) Yes, I have an employee whose biggest problem is making inferences and, in a sense, creating drama about something that doesn't exist. For example, a simple comment about a behavior {e.g., when you ask Susan to see a patient for you and you don't explain why nor do you offer to take a patient for her, Susan draws the conclusion that you are selfish. This is something for you to think about when you communicate with Susan.} Her response to this would likely be, "Susan hates me." :?

In fact, adjusting feedback I delivered to her during pregnancy was rarely dissassociated from the pregnancy; I could rarely give her direction without her becoming emotional and being reactive. When she expressed a concern over seeing infectious patients during pregnancy, she was told that our hospital policy required her to obtain a physician's note in order for her to be officially restricted from the care of certain patients because, according to the director of infection control, there are very few infections that pose risk during pregnancy. I was positive, encouraging, explanatory, etc. re: restricting her from these patients pending receipt of the note. I thought this would alleviate her fears and would also serve to "officially" restrict her from the care of certain patients so that others would not perceive her as lazy or selfish since she was choosing not to perform as others had performed in the past during their pregnancies. Her response was saturated with negativity and fierce defensiveness, "If you are asking me to choose between this job and my family...I mean...I'll choose my family!"

I have offered feedback routinely {she is one of my employees currently involved in behavioral redirection} and my director and I are currently offering feedback on focusing on the words spoken, the way they are said, body language, etc. and reacting only to this...not what you THINK the person MEANT to say or how they really MEANT to act. If she is still bothered by her own assumptions, the ball is in her court to give feedback in a professional manner until clarification is achieved.

This is very challenging to me, because no matter what the message...the perception of the message is severely skewed and ultimately an inaccurate portrayal of the communicative event. :(

jhack's picture

Mark talks about "second stage" feedback, or "systemic" feedback in the podcast.

"When you consistently respond to feedback by saying that people hate you, or say that you are being asked to choose between your job and your family, here's what happens: I wonder whether your judgement is solid. I wonder whether you fully understand how infectious diseases actually affect pregnant patients. And I begin to wonder if there are other ways in which your opinions cannot be swayed by medical evidence. What might you do about this?"

(edited after the fact:)
This is a technique to avoid putting someone on a plan: if they cannot respond to well structured and sincere feedback, you may have a more serious problem. Following this, you may need to move towards a "plan."

One more thought: make sure you document these and include them as part of your one on one discussions.


starbucksandshoes's picture

Great points. :) I have had growing concern over her judgment. I completely agree with documenting and have begun to do that. Thanks for the input.

sklosky's picture

I like this quote.

Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.

Theodore Roosevelt

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

Sound like she needs systemic feedback, and when, as likely, she doesn't change, she needs late stage coaching. And, when, as likely, she doesn't change again, you'll have to fire her.

It sounds to me as if you've given her enough many times have you done so?


starbucksandshoes's picture

Thanks for helping out...I've been out of town and just got your post.

Quick answer is: At least 47 times of adjusting and systemic feedback over two separate times, 6 weeks each. For those who want more info...I included the following... :)

I consistently give affirming feedback to all team members, when appropriate. I would say on a daily basis [on average], I have at least 5 opportunities to give affirming feedback to different members of my team. Usually, I have more opportunities than that. She has received much affirming feedback, as she has demonstrated high performance for approx. 9 out of 12 months.

As I look back through my documentation, one year ago, she was given both adjusting and systemic feedback. Through one-on-ones with each member of my team, positive behaviors and communication indicated behavioral problems with this particular employee had resolved. This employee began to demonstrate consistent behaviors giving me the conclusion that her attitude and "standards of excellence" had been modified to align with organizational expectations. Routine one-on-ones indicated no negativity. Several weeks ago, negative behaviors resurfaced. Since then, she has been {again} given adjusting and systemic feedback.

From what I can tell through reviewing the documentation I do have, she has had at least 35 times of adjusting feedback and at least 12 times of systemic feedback, all given within two separate periods {i.e., approx. 6 weeks one year ago...approx. 6 weeks recently}. Because the behavior had resurfaced, I moved toward the coaching model which was refused.

My director and I had a performance discussion with her last Thursday; unacceptable behaviors were discussed and expectations for improvement were outlined. It was actually pretty positive, however, for a performance discussion. My director and I talked about this afterward...the fact that we may have been too exhorting versus disciplinary. We did not get a good feel from her during the discussion. She still seems to not hear what is spoken; she continues to create meaning that just isn't there and she has bizarre responses to simple comments. :? In fact, her final comment after our investment of time and resources was, "I just want this to all go away."

I don't expect from that response that she will "own" a positive response and behavioral change as we strongly encouraged. As my director chose to do a verbal action plan versus a written disciplinary event, I sense more may be coming. In the event that other things occur, I would like to meet with my director to review late stage coaching once again and to develop a better tactic for this meeting.

My greatest challenge throughout this process has not been feeling reserved at giving feedback or even having to hold a performance discussion. My greatest challenge has been to watch someone with so much potential choose negative behaviors when I am rooting for her so strongly and wanting her to succeed. I've tried so hard to give feedback and I wanted so much to be able to coach her in a positive manner so that she could develop greater skill in conflict resolution for future encounters.

I will be following up with her in one-on-ones as suggested on the podcasts and keeping documenation on her performance. :)

In addition...can I offer some feedback? :D When all of you take the time to read all of my details and think through them and respond to me in such helpful and insightful ways, here's what happens...I learn so much and I feel like I have so many people helping me problem solve something very challenging. Thank you so very much for your time and your thoughts. :)

rthibode's picture

This situation sounds extremely challenging. I really sympathize. If I were in your shoes, I know I'd be losing sleep. I admire your perserverance and professionalism through all this.

Now, a couple of other comments:

- I've never been pregnant, but friends who have privately admitted to me that their emotional responses were off kilter. If this was your DR's first pregnancy, she may not have expected this. She may even attribute her strong emotions to the work situation and not realize the potential for her hormones to affect her emotions. Since you are in a medical field, it seems doubtful that she wouldn't know this. However, her reaction to working with any infectious patient suggests she may not be that well-informed.

- Your friend/DR seems to be using your friendship to manipulate you. You could equally accuse her of not being a real friend, or she would do everything to make your job easier, not more difficult. Not that you should stoop to this, just pointing it out in case she is succeeding in making you feel guilty.

- About raising your voice or pounding your fist, I agree with what others have said. No way. Where does your interest in this technique come from? I'm guessing it's because you feel your DR is not understanding the severity of the situation. This suggests to me that you need to tell her she is on course for losing her job if her behaviour doesn't change (using the late-stage coaching, of course). If you haven't spelled this out, maybe it's time.

Good luck, and please keep us posted.

WillDuke's picture
Training Badge

I'm not sure how this fits into the MT paradigm, but I wanted to share some insight offered to me by Steve Wynn. He spoke to our Rotary club about the efforts his company went to to support and develop its employees. These included things like in-house educational assistance for GEDs, childcare etc. When his talk was over, I told hat that this sounded great, but as a small business owner I didn't have the same kinds of resources. Steve pulled me close and told me "then you have to be their dada."

In your scenario, I think a primary interpretation is that you have to have their best interest at heart. You have to want them to succeed very much. And you have to be willing to help them.

I think you're in good shape on this one. You clearly care about the success of this person. Just make sure you're conveying that to her as well as you are to us.

US41's picture

First bit of advice: Do not draw conclusions from behaviors you did not observe. You do not know what was said or the purpose for the office visit.

If you're wrong, you have nothing to prepare for. If you are right, then some advice follows:

Receive the criticism you are about to get using your feedback model running in reverse. When your boss says that you've really failed here, if they say such a thing, ask what exactly they see and hear that is leading them to that conclusion. If they issue another criticism, ask what they can quote, what they specifically saw or did not see that they did not like.

As they describe it, write it down in your notebook and let them see you writing it. Thank them for sharing it with you. Help them give you feedback by giving it to yourself. "OK, I think I understand. When I ____ then what happens is____ and what I can do differently is_______."

When they are finished, tell them the actions you have taken so far in an effort to resolve things. Don't argue. Don't address their points. They made them, you thanked them. Just list what you did so far, and ask them for their recommendation as to how to proceed.

Then get out of that office and resolve it once and for all. Do what Mark said, and take any additional steps your boss recommends. Without boss support, this love/hate triangle you are in will result in everyone coming out OK except you.

Moments like these make me love my boss. She has been approached like this, and I know 100% that she sends them back to me to resolve the issue and supports me when my reports try to escalate on me. God bless her.

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

You're doing the right thing.

You can't make her do anything. She may not yet know that you would consider termination, and you don't want her to be surprised when you put that on the table...but fundamentally, the issue is hers.

Stay calm, and give lots of feedback. Let her vent, and give her feedback about that.

Stay the course.


starbucksandshoes's picture

[i][b]THANKS VERY MUCH![/b][/i] My two DRs are interacting with one another much better; it appears they are trying. They even went to get [b]ice cream [/b]together once. :D We'll see...

Their behaviors are awkward around me. Of course, I am sure they are not happy about having to have performance discussions with me and the director of our department. With their high performance history, I am sure they do not feel good about having to undergo a structured behavioral redirection process.

Neither one has taken accountability for any negative behaviors; however, I am reminded of the podcast on feedback and the example that was given {i.e, when the employee comes back with a timecard and says 'see I am on time' and the boss doesn't show data to prove him wrong}. A significant change in their behaviors is the result I am looking for, and if they are working to interact & perform in a positive manner and continue to do so...I will be very pleased :!:

I am trying [i]very hard [/i]to be positive and supportive. When I gave affirming feedback today on her excellent patient productivity, she appeared to relax. response to your question about raising my voice...let me clarify just a bit. I speak gently; I am reserved. I am consistently calm and do not have difficulty maintaining calm even when enduring the emotional reactivity of physicians, families, etc. which does occur in my healthcare job. I work in a trauma center with ICU patients so there is a [i]lot[/i] of stress; I have worked there 11 years. In this time, I have been trained to react peacefully to assist in de-escalating fears, stress, and grief.

Being stern is not my nature nor my comfort zone and, I believe when my director gave me feedback on "pounding the table", he meant that there are times when you have to "put your foot down." He knew what that feedback would mean for me, and he knew I would never actually pound the table. For me, raising the voice means changing the dynamic of a conversation and increasing volume to speak with emphasis. For me, I believe he thought there might be a rare need for me to create a moment of being serious and emphatic through some changes in my verbal and nonverbal behaviors.

We have a chairman of our surgery department who is nationally renowned and likely the most respected physician in our facility. He speaks softly and gently and is always calm and supportive. I remember every time he has ever delivered a message in a different tone of voice with a bit more volume; he wasn't inappropriate...he addressed behaviors of his resident physicians...he made his point, woke up the residents, and no one lost respect for his leadership.

I guess that is what I was talking about. :) I have changed my volume and tone to indicate seriousness twice in 11 years in an effort to create this type of discontinuity.

I [i]do[/i] understand everyone's feedback on "losing it" and, [b]I agree[/b], this is very inappropriate. It is a fine line to walk when you strategize a change in your overall countenance to create an effect; I do agree that calm is much more powerful overall and am striving to maintain this. :)

I am leaving on vacation Saturday :D :D :D . I postponed it one week due to current circumstances; it just wasn't a good time to leave. I have to go now, though, or I will lose my opportunity. I really appreciate everybody's input. I will check back when I return...

Take care!