Although she is an extremely diligent, intelligent, and willing employee she is having trouble connecting with her new staff members. She comes to you and says that she needs you to back her up. She explains that the manager she replaced had formed great bonds with the employees, but seemed to lack any disciplinary responsibility for their performance. Raising the performance of the department is why she was brought in, but the combination of perceived resentment from the staff combined with her no-nonsense attitude towards improvement has driven a divide between her and those who report to her. She is clearly frustrated and leaves your office to tend to a matter that needs her attention, asking to continue the conversation upon solving the problem.
When she leaves the office a longtime, highly valued engineering supervisor walks by and you stop him in order to get some opinion – as he now falls under her charge.
You ask him how things are going with the new Operations Manager and at first he speaks as though everything is going well, but then switches gears quickly. He is now clearly showing signs of disliking the change himself. She is still quite young and inexperienced, he says, and it is hard to take orders from someone who has no idea what he does or how he has always done it. When he told her that one task would be handled the way it always had she began to “get bossy” and told him that the old way wasn’t going to cut it anymore, and that she was there to improve what was happening – and that he needed to get on board.
The engineering supervisor is a natural leader, and many of your new hire’s direct reports look to him for guidance. You know that if there is a conflict situation between them it will be very counterproductive. You ask him to stay patient and explain that you are in the middle of a conversation with her about how things have progressed. He asks that you not mention the conversation about her.
Having completed her task your new Operations Manager returns, even more frustrated. The emergency, she says, was created by slipshod work from the engineering department. She wants to add a complaint to the engineering supervisors permanent file, and reiterates that she wants your full support on it in order to fulfill her duties as manager. The engineering supervisor has never had a complaint listed in his file during his 18 years of service and a new mandate makes such complaints a serious.
You ask her to sit down. What is your solution to the problem?