Manager's Tips and Tools

by Manager Development Services

Handling “Rainclouds” in Your Department


In monitoring the pulse of staff, there may be times when I notice a “rain cloud” developing in Open Heaven. It’s important I identify the cause and dissipate this “rain cloud” before it matures into a thunderhead. Most rain clouds are precipitated by personalities and politics, and in Open Heaven, there’s no room for rain clouds. Personalities and politics create kingdoms and alliances, dividing staff and spreading poison.

Some examples of rain clouds include:

• Unexpressed Grievances usually begin as the inaudible grumblings of one disgruntled individual, which infects another individual and then another. As the old sayings go: “Misery loves company” and “Negativity breeds negativity.” Complainers feed off negativity and off one another.

Someone gets their feelings hurt, and instead of dealing with the issue, they develop a resentment, curl up in a ball, lick their wounds, and solicit sympathy from others. Another person allows themselves to be manipulated and is compelled to rescue or save the first. This person, in turn, solicits support for this worthy cause. Some buy in and some don’t and the ones that don’t buy in are seen as heartless or unfeeling.

• Emotional Involvement (fraternization) creates secrets, alienation, gossip, sexual harassment, and rumors. The workplace is not high school. If you’re going to have a relationship, do it outside of work. If you neglect “checking your baggage at the door” (chapter 12), you both affect and infect others in the workplace. This will cause not only you, but all of staff to lose focus on their jobs. After all, there’s nothing juicer to talk about, be jealous of, or be offended at than “who” is doing “what” to “whom” in the copy room.

• Rumors are great at creating something out of noting. The children’s game where one person whispers something to another who whispers it to another and so on around the room until the last person shares something entirely different is a perfect example of this. Rumors are not only hurtful, they’re also dangerous.

• Misinformation about procedure or process in any area must be cleared up immediately. Not everyone gets the memo about the latest changes so they continue the way they always have. Another questions them, and because they believe they’re doing it correctly, they share what they believe is true. This causes the questioner to second guess themselves and spread doubt to others.

• Misperceptions of “Open Heaven” create confusion, and sometimes, even confrontation. The concept of Open Heaven is alien to traditional business practice and takes time to understand. There will often be times when well-meaning employees may argue amongst themselves in defense of their understanding. In this instance, it’s just necessary to get everyone back on track.

Pre – 1:1 temperature taking. This is a pre-meeting in which I meet privately 1:1 with a few key personnel to gather different perceptions of what is going on. This gives me information on issues which will need to be addressed and possible ammunition staff members may throw at me. This enables me to prepare responses so I don’t get blindsided.

A “Clear the Air” Meeting is a “reality check” / “get back on track,” group meeting in which everyone who possibly could be affected is included. Whether or not they have been affected yet doesn’t matter. The reality is if they haven’t been affected – they will be.

At this meeting, I am going to facilitate while the group does the work. The idea is to guide them through a process in which they police themselves. I only allow one person to speak at a time but assure them everyone who wishes to speak will get an opportunity.

There are 3 main objectives in “clearing the air;”

  1. give information,
  2. stop speculation, and
  3. get back on track.

1) Give information is exactly what I mean. No secrets – No favorites. I want all the cards on the table. Instead of “skirting around an issue,” I plan to address it head on.

If I catch a “rain cloud” early, there will be many individuals who aren’t even aware of the issue. So, I spell it out. Depending on the sensitivity of the situation, I may or may not use names, but I do want to use names as much as possible.

I start out by announcing that it has been brought to my attention (no names mentioned here) that there is a problem in “Open Heaven,” and I do not deal with problems – I deal with solutions. I let them know that this issue will be resolved by the time we leave this room. I continue by reminding everyone of the CORE Competencies and ground rules discussed when they were hired. I also remind them that in “Open Heaven” there is no room for secrets or favorites. I make it clear that everyone, in some way, affects everyone else, and that it hurts me when I see someone I care for hurting.

Next, I ask the group if anyone has anything they would like to share. And then, I wait (very important). Remember to love the silence. People can’t stand silence in a situation like this. This gives them an opportunity to look at and get honest with themselves. If I wait long enough, someone will speak. Often, other issues, which no one was aware of, will come up.

I then “open the cupboards” and lay out everything I know about the issue (what’s been going on) and the harmful affect I see it having on staff. I impress upon the group that this is an open forum in which everyone has a say and every say is important. I then ask if anyone has anything they would like to add. And I wait (the longest I’ve waited is fifteen minutes).

2) Stopping speculation is important if we are to dispel rumors or grievances. By encouraging everyone to speak, I compel them to participate in the process, and thus, the solution. There will always be a few people who will hog the floor if allowed. But I want everybody’s input.

Example: “OK, John, you’ve had an opportunity to share. Now, I think we should hear from some of the others. Susan, you’ve been awfully quiet. How do you feel about what’s been shared so far?”

Notice I asked how Susan feels, not what she thinks. It’s much more difficult to argue with someone’s feelings than it is their opinions. If John was making a case for a grievance or defending his part in emotional involvement or a rumor, he could easily justify his behavior if Susan shared her opinion. But by Susan sharing her feelings, John can’t use his ammunition.

I will continue to go around the room, asking each individual, “How does this make you feel?” The wealth of information which comes out of this process is amazing. Usually, by the time we make it around the room, all the cards are on the table.

Note: I do not allow anyone except me to interrupt another person. It’s important each person feels safe to speak their mind and not be intimidated.

The only times I do interrupt are (a) to keep and individual on track, (b) to stop verbal or emotional abuse, (c) to correct misinformation, and (d) to make someone take ownership of their feelings, thoughts, or behavior.

It’s important I identify rescuers, pot stirrers, and anarchists, and use (“d” above) to make them take responsibility for this behavior in front of everyone else. Some argue that it’s too harsh to single people out in front of others. My reply is that the consequences of their behavior have already been affecting others. Now the consequence of their behavior is affecting them. I haven’t done anything – they have.

3) Getting back on track is relatively simple in Open Heaven. Ninety-eight percent of the time, problems boil down to either personalities or politics. By following this process, staff will lay everything out on the table where everyone can take a look at it. Once everything is out in the open, the issue becomes evident and so does the solution. Then I simply ask the group, “What can we do to resolve this?”

In the instance of grievances, rumors, or emotional involvement, when the community monitors itself they answer to themselves. I am not the “bad guy” authority figure so there is no opportunity for the “us vs. them” mentality.

The effectivity which evolves from this process is that staff police themselves; they take ownership of their part in the problem and also in the solution; and they come to learn that each individual is accountable to his or her peers.

– excerpt from “Managing from the Heart – A Way of Life”

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October 25, 2011 - Posted by | Counseling Techniques, Leadership Skills, Manager Development Tools, Mentoring, Personal Development | , , , , , , ,

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