When people work with each other, you sometimes get a clash of agendas and different motivations which affect the team’s synergy and output. If not handled with tact and diplomacy, positions and points of view become entrenched and people construct walls and defenses.
An inexperienced supervisor in this situation often overreacts and tries to force change and this can backfire.
Trying to influence someone who doesn’t see your point and refuses to accept your reasoning is like trying to make a stream flow uphill. The stronger their defensive posture is, and resistance to change becomes, the more you exhaust yourself through frustration and resentment when repeated attempts to push change fail.
This has the effect of draining your energy, narrowing your range of tolerance, and prompting emotional reactions to every wrong move that the person makes.
Some points to consider when you are faced with this scenario:
Remove your emotions from the equation and look at the problem strategically by looking beyond surface appearances.
- Why is this person uncooperative?
- What is making them resentful or defensive?
- What are they possibly afraid of?
With a new supervisor, established employees may feel the need to test their boundaries, to see how strong or weak their new leader is. More experienced staff members who have seen supervisors come and go may test, probe or challenge to see if the new supervisor deserves their respect.
Finding common ground
- Solicit their input as to how things could be done better or more productively within the bounds of established corporate guidelines.
- Ask for their ideas about how you can help make their job easier and what tools they need.
- Establish the human connection through asking them about their own plans for career growth and what they see as the next step forward.
- Bring a specific operational problem to their attention and ask them how they would solve it.
Engaging these employees and showing that you value their experience, input and ideas is one way to gain willing cooperation. People have opinions and frequently have great ideas to contribute. Their former supervisor may have had a more autocratic leadership style, and as a consequence, they learned to avoid the risk of saying what they thought.
A significant part of the learning curve of new supervisors and managers is practicing the skills of active listening, soliciting feedback and seeking first to understand, then to be understood. This builds trust, and with trust more open communication becomes possible.
“I don’t like that man, I must get to know him better.” – Abraham Lincoln