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I've recently come to the realisation that I don't really know how to handle disagreement or objections from my directs when it happens during the course of day to day work about relatively minor things.  While some of my examples below relate to the same direct I've noticed this is a theme with people I manage in different environments - its absolutely a "me" problem in how I talk to my directs.

For context, we are still working through Trinity roll out and aren't up to feedback yet, but some things feel like feedback isn't the right thing anyway.  At least not right away.

A few examples include:

  • We bought some new furniture for reception and my direct wants to replace the reception desk to be a more aesthetically pleasing match.  To the point of getting quotes and creating a "mood board."
  • We had some new display stands installed.  The supplier recommended a particular installation method but my direct doesn't like it and wants to get them back in to do it her way
  • Suggests alternative colours for painting a wall to those that the our facilities manager has recommended - and suggests getting in an expert to consult!

I usually try and explain the reasoning behind the decision that was made but this only makes my direct more adamant that we need to fix it and they start offering suggestions as to how, or try and refute each point.  When I push back my direct will often end up spending the next half hour talking to one of their colleagues about it and explain all the reasons that they are right - again. (I of course only hear about these conversations later - and this is something I clearly can give feedback on).

But how do I deal with the day-to-day?  What can I say to get the message across that is somewhere between "Thanks for your ideas but this is what we're doing and I don't need to consult you on everything" and "Can you please just do your own job"

Would love some ideas and tips!

pucciot's picture

Let me lay down some platitudes that will apply here:

 

You can't make everybody happy

The buck stops here

It is lonely at the top

Discussion time is open - decision time is closed.

Management is often resented, management is always needed.

Use an iron hand with a velvet glove.

 

Cast :

Professional Subordination

https://www.manager-tools.com/2010/12/professional-subordination-part-1

 

===

I'm sorry it is hard to be the Boss.  Management is hard.

You can let folks gripe about unimportant things, but eventually it might lead to undermining authority.

I would recommend that in the future that you make it clear when you are considering things and the options are open to discussion.

Give your folks a week or two or three to present options.  Send you websites.  Invite in vendors.  Etc....

 

And then make it clear -- set a well-known and advertised deadline when you say clearly that YOU will be making the final decision.  Or when a Delegated person or committee will make the final decision.

Announce it -- and repeat it --- that From Date 1 to Date 2 there will be a time for open discussions and considerations.

And That After Date 3 - a Final decision will be made.

 

If anybody starts griping or asking for changes after that date -- you will let them know when there will be another time to reconsider the matter.   Perhaps in a Year or Two.

Stick to this script.   

It will take a few times -- but eventually they will begin to understand the process.

 

1 - Open Discussion and Consideration

2 - Final Decision

3 - Implementation

After a reasonable amount of time   

When you decide it is the right time; the matter can be made for Open Discussion again.

 

*** I recommend that you listen to a gripe afterwards --- and merely say. ...

"Thank You for the input.  Please excuse me I something to take care of."  Then walk away.

Evetually they will get it.... hopefully.

Just smile and giggle to yourself. 

 

It won't be easy to break these old habits of behavior.  Keep trying to improve.

 

===============================

I recommend that you start the process with minor things first.

Recently, I am doing this with company shirts.

Staff Meeting One

You all have a week to look at the catalog and make some suggestions

Staff Meeting Two

You all have a week to make comments on the Top Three selections.

Staff Meeting Three

I will announce the decision on what options will be available. 

Staff Meeting Four

The Uniform Rep will present the options - You will have one week to make your custom orders within the options we have already decided on.

Staff Meeting Five

The Shirts will be ordered and we will look at shirts again this same time next year.

========================================================================

Once you get the staff used to this method of decision making you can apply it to large and small items.

Good luck

 

TJPuccio

jrb's picture

Thank you for our detailed reply - really helpful.

Using you T-shirt example though, how would you handle a direct who says “I don’t like any of the shirts in the catalog so I’ve spent the last week designing the shirt myself”

(This seems extreme but it’s not far off what happens)

 

mrreliable's picture

You said the problem is your inability to "handle disgareements or objections from my directs," but all of your stated issues seem to focus on one person. It appears you have a direct who knows better than you, doesn't care what you think, and isn't a bit worried about letting you know how stupid they think your decisions are. They give directions to other personnel to help them achieve the goals they believe they have the authority to set and carry out. And in the time they spend doing your job, they're not doing their own job.

You say you're not up to feedback yet, but this problem seems deeper and more pressing than waiting for some technically-correct procedure before you deal with the situation.

In my opinion you need to take steps quickly, directly, and forcefully. You can make all the snappy canned comebacks you want, but this person is going to continue to push their perceived authority over you as long as you allow it to continue. Perception becomes reality, a bit at a time, not only with this particular direct, but also with co-workers. This person has you questioning yourself, and you can believe they have your other directs questioning you as well. As long as you avoid this issue, it's going to get worse, and it's already infected the entire team.

I speak from experience. You have a control freak on your hands. They've decided that they're in charge, they're micromanaging you, and you're allowing it to happen. There's a bullying aspect to this, and there's only one way I know of to stand up to bullies. Just be aware that the bully attitude will switch to victimhood in a heartbeat, and will turn to displays of being horribly wronged if you decide to stand up for yourself. It's all about the manipulation.

I watched a great manager one time deal with an attitude player and it set the tone for their relationship from that point forward. He was taking some notes in a meeting, the direct started in laying out all his plans to implement policies and procedures, and the manager calmly pushed the notepad aside, set the pen down, and crossed his hands in the middle of the desk. He said, "I'm not sure this relationship is going to work out. I'm not going to allow you to second guess all my decisions and offer constant critique on my performance. Should we continue our working relationship?"

The direct stuttered and stammered and the manager didn't say another word, just maintained eye contact. It didn't completely cure the direct instantly, but it set a new tone.

I don't think you can afford to try to finesse this one. The only landmine I see in dealing with this directly is if you're a manager in name only and don't have the true authority, and/or you have questions about whether you have the support of upper management. The casts talk about a manager having, "I'm your manager and I can fire you," tatooed to their forehead. If you don't have that tatoo, all bets are off.

jrb's picture

Just be aware that the bully attitude will switch to victimhood in a heartbeat, and will turn to displays of being horribly wronged if you decide to stand up for yourself. It's all about the manipulation

It's amazing how spot-on you are.  Just last Friday we had a tearful (them, not me) meeting because I changed something they had approved (?!) about something that wasn't really thier job.  And the thing they had "approved" was them re-creating someone elses work because they didn't like it.

I've heard lots of stories about preevious managers being overruled by hirer ups when they trued setting performance standards - and the more I refelct on it, the more I realise the stories were from people who had an interest in me not exerting any authority.  But it's made me gun-shy and I need to change that.