Manager's Tips and Tools

by Manager Development Services

How Do You Deal with Anarchists? (part 2 of 2)


Yesterday,  I talked about “following your gut?” Simply by observing, my gut will begin to speak to me. There’s nothing magical about it. Whatever is in the orange will come out – will be radiated. I just need to pay attention, observe the culture and monitor my staff’s pulse, and I will see what’s in every orange. Then it’s time to do a Reality Check.

Reality Check (Tool #28)

1) I sense in my gut that something is wrong. Some employees have begun grumbling about their workload. I check the workload and it hasn’t changed. Something doesn’t appear right. I also notice that some staff appear indifferent toward other staff.

2) I identify exactly what it is I am feeling. I ask myself what it is exactly that I am feeling. I realize I am feeling a lack of motivation and a reluctance in these employees to speak to me about what’s really going on. I feel they are beginning to distance themselves from me.

3) I float a few balloons. I begin casual conversations with these employees independently, asking them how they’re doing, if they need any help, and what Boulders or Pebbles I might work on. Eventually, I will get the response I’m looking for; someone will casually mention what’s bothering them.

In this case, I confirm that six employees are distancing themselves from me and are reluctant to talk about anything substantial. I also learn that there is resentment among some individuals because I allowed the front office staff to leave two hours early one day because they remembered my birthday.

4) I identify the obvious problem. Some individuals have lost confidence and/or trust in me.

5) I ask myself where the feeling is coming from (check the motivation driving the feeling). Some staff are feeling that their efforts are being overlooked while others are getting preferential treatment by management, meaning me in this instance. This pits employee against employee and creates an “Us vs. Them” mentality toward management.

6) I trace the source back to the primary problem. I immediately rule out front office staff and consider the rest. Four of the six individuals whose behavior seems to have changed have been with me for more than two years. I know they understand and appreciate the philosophy of Open Heaven.

Of the two left, I discern that one is career-minded while the other is a clock watcher (job-minded.). The clock watcher, I recognize, has also been late to work three times in the last month. I then speak to the clock watcher again, asking her if she has noticed anyone upset about the front office leaving early. She answers no, but by her body language (chapter 16) it is obvious she is nervous, defensive, cautious, and lying.

7) I address the primary problem. I call a “Clear the Air” Meeting for the whole department. The first thing I do is to hit this subject openly, honestly, and head on. I announce that there is an Anarchist spreading dissension in our midst, and I will not allow Anarchists in Open Heaven. I explain what an Anarchist is and how they work. Most of staff will already know this, but I want to inform the newer staff and impress upon the older staff that I mean business.

I then explain that some individuals appear to be spreading the rumor that I have been showing preferential treatment to the front office, such as letting them leave early just because they remembered my birthday. I then announce that the real reason they went home two hours early was because earlier that week they stayed over one hour after everyone else had left.

I then ask everyone to check their last paycheck to make sure they got paid for every hour they actually worked, and to please let me know if anyone was shorted. I then apologize for not getting approval from the entire department before letting the front office leave early, and I go on to explain that I didn’t realize I needed to. I express that in Open Heaven I believe all staff know that I have their back. I also believe that staff know to come to me with any question, problem, gripe, or grumble and together we will address it openly and honestly. And that’s what hurts the most, that no one came forward.

I then ask if there are any questions or any more gripes, grumbles, rumors, or innuendos; that this is the time to “Clear the Air.” Most staff won’t have a clue as to what is going on, but I will often be surprised at how many were aware, but were trying to ignore the rumor and just not deal with it.

Once the questions and “air clearing” is over, I announce that I know who the Anarchist is (or are) and that they will be dealt with shortly. When saying this last part I pay particular attention to body language (especially my clock watcher) just to confirm that I was right (and I am almost always right). Sometimes, body language will also give away others I wasn’t aware of.

What is the purpose of this meeting? What does it accomplish?

a) It gets Open Heaven back “on line” by reminding everyone of the purpose and value of Open Heaven.

b) It lets everyone in the department know that something has been going on and is still going on. Anarchists do their best work in secret.

c) It alerts everyone that I am aware of the “elephant in the middle of the room,” and we’re going to talk about it because that’s what we do in Open Heaven. Anarchists stir the pot and then stand back, letting others do the dirty work. Because they work in the shadows, Anarchists become experts, whether consciously or subconsciously, at bringing others into the shadows too. No one wants to recognize or discuss the “elephant standing in the middle of the room.” They walk around it, look past it, and ignore it. But even though they refuse to acknowledge it, they still complain about it, and complaining breeds negativity, resentment, bitterness, and dissension.

d) When I am honest about this issue and relate it to the “bigger picture” everyone is able to recognize the pettiness of what’s really happening. This results in the participants feeling stupid or ashamed of their behavior and compels the nonparticipants to unite in support of Open Heaven.

e) When I explain why I allowed the front office off two hours early, I validate the event, but not the misrepresentation of the event.

f) By reminding staff that my door is always open and sharing the hurt I feel at no one coming forward, I make myself human in their eyes and solicit support.

g) When I ask for responses (Clearing of the Air), I invite participation, and thus ownership. This solicits involvement of staff in taking responsibility for the protection of Open Heaven. This will make individuals aware of how easily one can be led “off track” and inspire staff to have vigilance in their own monitoring for Anarchists.

h) By announcing that I know who the Anarchists are and that they will be dealt with, I authenticate the seriousness of such an offense, and affirm that I have the backs of my staff.

In short, this meeting reaffirms to everyone my commitment to Open Heaven and my staff.

This example appears, at first glance, to be over something very petty, but this is exactly the type of thing an Anarchist will capitalize on to create dissension. A very fine wedge is tapped into an imperceptible crack, and with every subsequent tap, the wedge slowly widens the crack until the rock splits in two. This initial incident just sets the stage on which to accumulate other evidence, whether real or perceived, which will be used to denigrate the concept of Open Heaven.

KNOW THIS: this incident has nothing at all to do with the front office going home early. But it does have everything to do with destroying trust in management, your peers, and especially, Open Heaven. Once the Anarchist sets the ball of discord in motion, they will then step back and let others carry it. Before I realize it, I can have a department full of disgruntled, backbiting, and self-serving employees, creating conflict and chaos.

If I am not vigilant and weed out Anarchists immediately, I will end up with an entire department of Anarchists before I know it.

– excerpt from “The Manager as Orchestra Leader”


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March 17, 2010 - Posted by | Manager Development Tools | , , , ,

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