You can’t change someone else

I just did a Flash Consult that was either disheartening or freeing, depending on your perspective. It was a workplace issue, in which a new manager had been hired in over the client and the rest of the client’s team. This team had overlapping but non-identical job roles, and had been managing themselves for six months with little drama while hitting their performance metrics. Management felt that there was a hole in the org chart and hired someone in to manage the team.

Three of the members of the team had been invited to talk to the new manager before he was given an offer. All three expressed reservations because the new manager did not seem interested in the team or the company culture but instead wanted to assert dominance in these pre-hire conversations. Despite this, the new manager was hired.

As predicted, the manager began “transforming” the team immediately and causing discord, penalizing independence, hoarding information, and instituting a rating system that pitted team members against each other. My client was miserable and reported that morale was horrible. Team members had already told the manager that his behavior was problematic and preventing them from doing their jobs well, but he didn’t receive this well and punished the people who were honest with him. My client told me he was hiring me to help him come up with a strategy to neutralize the new manager so he could enjoy his job again.

We started talking about it, and I told my client that there’s no way to change someone else’s behavior. So this manager wasn’t going to change, certainly, considering the way he’d reacted to feedback from team members. So unless there was a way to convince management that this new manager needed to change, it wasn’t happening, and my client would be better off moving on to a different job.

I thought the client was going to be angry, but instead he seemed relieved! We dug into that a little, and he admitted that he was so disillusioned with the company for having hired this guy over legitimate objections that he’d emotionally checked out. He felt an obligation to try to stay and work things out somehow, but when I let him admit that his feelings about work mattered, he realized that he didn’t want to stay, and the list of things it would take to get him to want to stay were extremely unlikely to happen.

So then we switched to job search talk and spent some time making a list of requirements for a new job. By the end of the consult he seemed significantly relieved (which wasn’t what I’d thought was going to happen) and motivated to find another job. Another consult that went on a totally different direction than I’d thought it was going to.

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