Wednesday, April 16, 2008

"Us" vs "Them"??

Have you ever had an experience where you start to realize that some people you work with have the attitude of "Us" vs "Them" rather than "We" work as a team? I don't really want to go into details, but I think I may have had a wake-up call yesterday. I am a supervisor and I always thought that my team and I got along pretty well and that we worked as a team. Yesterday I found out that one of my team members has not been communicating with me about something about our working environment. She did, however, talk with my boss about it... I found out when my boss (the pastor) came to talk with me. I don't think she started the conversation with my boss, but she still should have talked to me about it a long time ago rather than just stewing in hard feelings!

I find this kind of situation very frustrating! I can't make people talk to me. However, when we are supposed to be working as a team we need good communication! This team member has very strong opinions (that don't always match mine) so I have struggled for a while with figuring out if she's stewing about a difference of opinion I already know about or if it's something else. I never thought, though, that she would go over my head without talking to me! Uuggh.

How would you handle a situation like this? I have told my team so many times that if they have a concern they should talk to me about it. When they do come talk to me I try to be a good listener and address any issues that are problematic for them. Most of the time we are able to resolve any issues in a way that everyone is satisfied. What else can I do? Are there any other supervisors out there? How do you encourage your staff to communicate with you about things, even if they disagree with what you are doing/thinking (or what they think you are doing/thinking)?

Currently I have monthly staff meetings and I try to check in with the staff individually in a casual way. We have an annual review system in place, but I haven't been meeting formally with my staff individually outside of those annual reviews. Maybe I need to start meeting with each person regularly in a more formal setting?? I haven't done this because 3 out of the 5 members of my team really dislike coming in for their annual review. I thought the formality of the meetings was what made them stressed about their annuals. However, maybe a more formal setting will help bring up more issues?? I don't know. Any suggestions you have would be welcome!

I am also trying to think of someone in RL I know who is a good supervisor who can give me advice. It's hard, though, because most of the supervisory examples I can think of have their own glaring weaknesses. I know nobody is perfect, but I would like to be thought of as a good supervisor... Should I come up with some kind of eval that my staff can fill out on me? We talk about their evals every year and work on their strengths and weaknesses... My boss does my eval, but he doesn't really see me in action very often. Maybe I need to get more personal feedback from my staff?? I think a supervisor eval would be unprecedented at my church...

OK. I think I am just rambling at this point. If you have any suggestions for me, please share! In the meantime I might try to go back to sleep for a while. I only got 4 hours before a "bathroom break" got extended by my overactive brain... Thanks in advance for your help!


Kathy V said...

While I think sometimes a review of your Boss is a good idea, be careful how you word it. Maybe if you say it as what could I do to be a better supervisor to you or what is it that you need from me so that you can succeed. That way it will come across as constructive criticism rather than just boss bashing. SOmetime it is difficult when people disagree about how things should be done or people have differing opinions. I think that is one of the main reasons me and my coworker had a scuffle last week. Anyway, while maybe this coworker shouldn't have gone around you, sometimes people feel funny talking to their direct boss about things that are bothering them. Especially if the reason they are having problems is because of something you did whether inadvertantly or not. Hope this helps.

Fertilized said...

I work in a us vs them work environment for about 7 yrs now. I know my supervisor has good intentions and i also know that some people are just plain unhappy and like to only create more of a tension between the us vs them office dynamic. I hope that you are able to figure out how to accommodate the majority. It's always hard to make everyone pleased or accomodated

LifeHopes said...

I admire you for trying to work on yourself and not simply placing all the blame on the few disgruntled folks who seem to be good at causing trouble. It is disrespectful and wrong - in my view - to go around your supervisor - unless you have already done so and the problem persists.

I think you should give yourself license to do the best you can but also know that some people will never be happy and that has nothing to do with you. You shouldn't be too hard on yourself. If you notice someone has a persisting negative attitude, it needs to be addressed or else it will spread to others like a disease and hinder the objectives of the team ... I have been in work environments where the supervisor coddles the complainer so much that everyone else gets bent out of shape, too. I know you will do the right thing, it sounds like you are a great leader and the problem is most likely with this employee who would be unhappy no matter what the situation was.