Question: Recently, a new manager was transferred to our store from a different location. “Gwen” apparently wants everything to be just like it was at her previous workplace. Instead of trying to understand how we do things here, she has turned the place upside down with one change after another.
The employees constantly complain that they can’t keep up with all these changes. Morale is at an all-time low, and customer service is declining. I would like to help solve this problem, but I’m not sure what to do. Should I confront Gwen and let her know how everyone feels?
Answer: When dealing with a new boss, “confront” is a dangerous word to use. Even if Gwen’s changes are misguided, an adversarial approach will only damage your relationship. New managers always have fresh ideas, and they tend to regard critics as obstructive and resistant to change.
Nor should you volunteer to “let her know how everyone feels,” because that will make you look like a rabble-rouser. If the whole group is upset, then the whole group needs to discuss the problem. The key, however, is not to focus on feelings, but to explain the business issue.
For example: “Gwen, we want you to know that we appreciate the experience you bring from your previous store. However, learning so many new procedures at once has been difficult and has slowed our service to customers. Do you think we could have a meeting to review all the changes, then wait a few weeks before making any more?”
If your concerns are presented in a supportive, helpful manner, Gwen might actually listen. But if you begin criticizing her leadership style, you will only start an argument that you are undoubtedly going to lose.
Q: Our company recently instituted exercise workouts for “professional development,” even though our jobs don’t involve any physical labor. Given my age and knee problems, I am concerned about participating in these sessions. I also worry that nonparticipation could affect my career, because the leader of this effort is close to our CEO.
So far, I have joined with some other reluctant employees who walk on the outskirts of the exercise group, but this feels very conspicuous. A co-worker suggested that I explain my situation to management, but I prefer not to share personal medical information. What should I do?
A: People who excitedly promote workplace workouts or vigorous teambuilding games often forget that some employees, like yourself, have limitations that they prefer not to broadcast. Others simply dislike exercising at work for a variety of reasons. So unless these activities are clearly job-related, participation should always be voluntary.
Unfortunately, however, your company doesn’t share this view. Since you would rather not disclose your medical circumstances, your best option may be to stick with the walking group and wait to see whether anyone cares. If enough people choose this alternative, walking may come to be viewed as a standard part of the program.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.” Send in questions and get free coaching tips at www.yourofficecoach.com.