Grumpy Old Man --- Image by © Ned Frisk Photography/Corbis

A client and friend of mine recently spent days revising the staff schedule to be more efficient and effective. He took great pains to think about its impact on staff and did his best to devise a plan that would work best for the funeral home AND create the least inconvenience for his staff. After he finished explaining it to staff at a staff meeting one of his staff members pushed back hard. This resulted in others joining suit (crowd mentality).

The problem was not that it was a bad schedule. In fact, it was a much better schedule. The problem was that it was a different schedule and the staff was used to the old one and had adjusted their lives accordingly.

My client felt like he lost control of the meeting and called me to ask how he should handle it.

He was mad, especially at the instigator. But really he was hurt because the staff had not appreciated the pains he had gone to consider their needs.

What should he have done?

Today’s management philosophy is to let staff have their say and listen carefully. Certainly that is good advice. But what most people miss is that their say should be mutually constructive. In other words, pushing back is always destructive and should be stopped in its tracks.  A collaborative approach requires that insights and alternatives be offered that make the solution better. If the intent is simply to resist then, at least in my mind, they immediately surrender the privilege of input.

So, here is what I would have done:

  • I would have taken time to listen to their input but not their complaints.
  • If they offered no constructive insights or alternatives I would tell them so:
    • “All I hear from you is negative and that’s not how we operate any more.”
    • Then I would shut up and it would be on them to respond constructively
  • If they offered constructive insights I would summarize them and tell them what adjustments I plan on making or if I needed to think on their insights.
  • Either way I would restate the company’s vision and mission to remind them of our community purpose.

What I would not do:

  • Waiver or appear irresolute
  • Get mad
  • argue defensively
  • whine
  • Appear frustrated

A good thing to remember:

You are the adult

Finally, if I had a chronic offender who simply seems determined to undermine me in every way (what I call the “ten call man”) I would let them go… and I might do it publicly to make a point.

If you fail to walk in your god – given authority someone will take it away from you and use it against you.