I was recently coaching a professional woman, Miranda, who had been hired in a Team Leader role for a Telecommunications firm. As she was new to the organisation, she hadn’t hired any of her direct reports, and it was made clear to her from her manager, that she would have limited power in replacing any of them. This did not initially phase Miranda, as she had always been able to develop good rapport with colleagues. However within a few months, Miranda found herself being challenged by a direct report – Jackie, who Miranda suspected felt sidelined when Miranda had been hired. Miranda had no problem with the quality or reliability of Jackie’s work – rather her challenge was in having Jackie second guess her decisions to the point of rudeness. What could Miranda do? If you have ever been in this situation, you know Miranda has a couple of options:
1. Start off by looking at Jackie’s background and determine where her approach is coming from? Had she ever been led to believe she would be hired into the Team Lead role before Miranda arrived? Turns out Jackie was a recent MBA graduate. In her programme Jackie had to fight to be heard and was rewarded for the bluntness in her approach. Now Jackie was in a more collaborative environment, this approach wasn’t winning her any loyalty from Miranda. However, it did help explain in part where Jackie’s approach came from.
2. When she cut Miranda off mid-sentence in front of the group, Miranda kept her cool and asked Jackie to hold the thought for discussion after the meeting. Knowing that she wasn’t going to help the situation by chastising Jackie in public, Miranda spoke to her afterward saying: “I appreciate your suggestion, but I prefer to continue with my plan in this instance.” We also discussed how she could give credit publicly to Jackie when she does have a good point. It validates Jackie’s opinion and reminds her that they were on the same side.
3. If Miranda felt the rudeness got out of hand, she decided she would say in a still and confident voice: “I may not have all the answers, but my decisions are based on years of experience in I.T. I welcome respectful dissent, but know that I always have a reason for doing things the way I do”.
4. After some discussion, Miranda recognised that Jackie’s forthright style probably also stemmed from wanting to take on more responsibility so she could progress. With this in mind, Miranda delegated her a six month stand-alone project she thought would keep Jackie happy. Interestingly, in taking this stance, Jackie did have to turn to Miranda over the subsequent months for advice – a move she probably never anticipated! Several months later, Miranda reflected: “I think Jackie’s enjoyed the project and found it a steeper learning curve than she anticipated – but I also think it’s given her a greater sense of respect for what I have to do on a day to day basis!”
As a working woman, if you’ve ever been in this situation – how did you handle it?