Just as bratty children reflect overly permissive parenting, disruptive employees are a sign of weak leadership.

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Q: As a manager, I don’t know how to handle three staff members who have no respect for authority. These young women feel entitled to speak their mind, use profanity and tell their superiors what to do. They apparently believe they know more than anyone, especially me.

I’m pleased that these three work well together, but it feels as though they constantly gang up on me. Others have noticed their defiance and commented on it. How should I deal with this?

A: Just as bratty children reflect overly permissive parenting, disruptive employees are a sign of weak leadership. Regrettably, you appear to be a wimpy manager, my term for bosses who are uncomfortable using the authority of their position.

Because these timid souls fear performance discussions, they often let difficult people run amok.

To solve this problem, you must toughen up your leadership style without becoming the office dictator. Wimpy managers who try to reform often go to the other extreme, which creates a whole new set of issues. Instead, you should find a middle ground where you can calmly tackle problems in a firm and confident manner.

If this transformation sounds difficult, look for helpful role models. Identify respected managers who would never tolerate this behavior and then try to follow their example. Even better, find a mentor who can help you practice taking a stand with these young upstarts. Some people only respect authority when that authority is clearly demonstrated.

Explain rationale for changes to volunteers

Q: I manage a nonprofit book store and we are planning to introduce some new financial practices. My problem is that we have long-standing volunteers who are set in their ways and don’t like change. I feel quite sure that they will not be happy about these new procedures.

Because the store has always been run rather informally, we want to begin managing our funds in a more professional manner. We need to keep better records, balance accounts regularly and store cash more securely. How can I explain this to the volunteers without creating a mutiny or causing hurt feelings?

A: Managing volunteers can be a tricky business, so you are wise to consider their reactions. Since change often triggers an emotional response, some resistance is probably inevitable. However, these policies are clearly needed, because many nonprofits have faced disastrous consequences from poor financial controls.

To accept change, people must first understand why it’s necessary. If your volunteers are unfamiliar with good management practices, tighter control may seem to imply a lack of trust. To dispel that misperception, consider bringing in a credentialed and credible speaker to discuss fiscal responsibility.

Next, try to understand the change from a volunteer perspective. Solicit questions, address concerns, invite feedback and adopt any reasonable suggestions. If their work will become more complicated, describe your plans for training. Involving them in the process will not only reduce resistance, but it may also improve implementation.

Finally, express sincere appreciation for all the time your unpaid helpers have donated over the years. Because volunteers tend to be dedicated folk, most of them should understand and adapt. But if some diehards stubbornly refuse to comply, then you must sadly bid them farewell.

Submit questions to Marie G. McIntyre at yourofficecoach.com.