Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Stormy Day at the Beach

Click to "embiggen"

How many of you have the responsibility of supervising others at work?

At my beach assignment, I am in an advisory role, but I have been asked to intervene in a situation involving supervising staff.

Employees A and B share an office. The quarters are too close, and the room is loud, and it is difficult for each person to talk on the phone. Both employees have to talk on the phone a lot. Employee A is a salesperson - she has to be up-beat, positive, and "sell" the product. Employee B delivers the sale - her job includes enforcing rules, delivering bad news, and managing customer expectations.

Employee B has been on staff for a long time, and endured the company's worst, most stressful times. She's tired and she feels unappreciated. Employee A is new and fresh, a go-getter.

Employee A has confided in me about how hard it is to deal with Employee B's negative attitude. Employee B has confided in me about how her job is impacted by the miss-steps of upper management - consistent with my own observations, and also noted by Employee A.

There's been a recent altercation between Employees A and B. A closed a sale that B was to carry out. B's response to the customer didn't meet expectations, and the customer hounded A about it. A pushed B to be more active. In response, B exhibited what Employee A described as bad attitude.

I am not the supervisor, but in my role, I've been asked to assist.

The easy fix - and one that has already been suggested, is to separate Employees A and B physically. Their jobs require privacy, and the work environment is counterproductive. We have the space (thank goodness!) and we can easily move them into separate work stations. Upper management has long resisted this, for some odd reason, but this conflict has motivated them to give a go-ahead. Again, thank goodness!

But what about the underlying conflict? How can that be solved? Will the new work arrangements heal the irritation, or is there more to be done? What would you do to heal a potential rift between employees?


Cloudia said...

Tell them that they are adults, and and such they should solve silly interpersonal problems - or you will be forced to (ominous!)

Aloha from Honolulu :)

Comfort Spiral

Gilly said...

Think I'd tell them both how much their different talents are appreciated, and that the new rooming arrangements are in recognition of their differing requirements, and then see how it all settles for a month or two!

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Make them each a pie!

Susan B said...

Having dealt with similar issues in my office, I'm guessing the irritation of sharing the space was adding to any underlying conflicts. My experience is that once they are out of each other's direct line of sight (and hearing) things should settle down. These things are never easy. Good luck!

smalltownme said...

Separating them was the right thing to do.

As far as the other issues? Did B really underperform? Or did A oversell?

I sure don't miss this! The most awkward issue I ever had as a manager was to tell an employee people were complaining about her body odor.

Sue said...

I do think separating them is a good idea, but it won't solve the problems. B is still going to be hijacked by upper management, therefore...unhappy with her job. A is still going to feel that B has a bad attitude and as a new employee may not realize how the changes over the years have affected B's personality.

The key is to make B happy, which probably needs to come from a discussion with her on what her needs are...and a discussion with upper management to implement things that will help her feel enthusiastic about her job again. Just my take on it.