Doesn’t a good manager solicit and incorporate employee feedback? Isn’t employee happiness a major factor in building morale and teamwork? Well, yes. With most employees you’d think that’s true. But listen to what happened to Claire’s team, which harbored an unhappy, negative employee, Heather.
Heather was a chronic, whining complainer. Nothing was good enough for her. She criticized and disparaged everything Claire did. She looked down her nose at Claire.
The tea in the break room was never good enough for Heather. The soda and snacks at trainings, the seating arrangements and even the carpet in the training room never pleased Heather. When Claire did what Heather seemed to want, Heather found something else wrong or changed her mind. Heather was unhappy and told everyone it was Claire’s fault. No matter what Claire did, she could never please Heather. Heather was relentlessly hostile and verbally abusive.
Heather was a manipulative bully. She used her unhappiness, negativity, criticism and verbal abuse to get Claire to try to please her. But what could Claire do? Wasn’t she supposed to try to make Heather happy? Wouldn’t Heather be a more productive worker and better team player if she was happy.
When Claire accepted the assumption that she should do everything to please Heather, Claire gave Heather control of the team. A few people joined Heather’s clique and bad mouthed everything Claire and the rest of the team did. The rest of the team slunk away and tried to ignore Heather, despite the hostile environment she created.
Heather’s unhappiness and constant complaining triggered a pattern in Claire that I call “Self-Bullying.” Claire accepted Heather’s assumptions about who was the failure. Claire mentally beat herself up for not being good enough to please Heather. Her self-doubt increased and her confidence and self-esteem plummeted.
As hostility increased and morale fell in Claire’s team, productivity also fell. Sick leave and turnover increased.
I was brought in as a consultant and coach to help Claire’s once productive team. We quickly developed a practical supervision and performance improvement plan that Claire could use for Heather. But Claire wouldn’t implement it until she had done some major inner work.
Claire had to change her ineffective beliefs that:
- Everyone will become happy and productive if you give them what they want.
- Managers like Claire should make employees happy.
- Employee satisfaction is the key to team success.
The key change for Claire was recognizing Heather as a bully. Heather had learned to use her distain, unhappiness and criticism to get people to try to please her. With this tactic, she dominated and controlled her environment. But once Claire recognized Heather as stealth bully, Claire was freed from her own self-bullying. She was motivated and empowered to use the practical performance improvement plan effectively and successfully.
Heather wouldn’t improve her attitude and her team behavior. She soon left. The whole team heaved a great sigh of relief.
Why had Heather been allowed to remain with the company after she had treated her former manager the same way? I’ll give more details of how Claire was finally successful, in an article to appear in the Denver Business Journal on February 15, 2008.