Get a grip on your feelings, put on your manager hat, and initiate a follow-up discussion with your unhappy worker.
Q: I was recently stunned when one of my employees began complaining about my leadership style. “Jim” said he wanted to talk about a project, but he spent most of the time criticizing me. To avoid getting angry or defensive, I just listened to his comments without responding.
Because Jim is the team leader for our group, I have always trusted him and relied on him heavily. I thought we had a good working relationship, but he apparently feels that I’m not an effective manager. He has never mentioned these concerns before.
My boss says Jim was just venting, and I shouldn’t worry about it. However, I feel betrayed, and I’m not sure what to do next.
A: Your resentment and irritation are completely understandable, so kudos to you for controlling those emotions. But now that you’ve had time to calm down, you need to find out exactly what triggered Jim’s verbal assault.
If you dismiss his comments as “just venting”, these unresolved issues will eventually resurface. So get a grip on your feelings, put on your manager hat, and initiate a follow-up discussion with your unhappy team leader.
For example: “Jim, I wanted to discuss some of the issues you raised during our last meeting. I was quite surprised, because I had no idea you felt that way. However, now that I’m aware of your concerns, I would like to develop a plan for resolving them. What are some of the changes you would like to see?”
Rehashing previous events will inevitably produce arguments, so focus on the future, not the past. For instance, if Jim accuses you of micromanagement, don’t request examples. Instead, ask where he would like more autonomy, and then consider making reasonable changes.
If this meeting goes well, just chalk up Jim’s previous outburst to situational frustrations. One bad episode shouldn’t ruin a good relationship.
Q: Six weeks ago, my teenage grandson began working as a busboy in a cafeteria. Although he primarily cleans tables, he is occasionally asked to run the cash register. Yesterday, the human resources manager called him into her office and said “even though we have no proof, we think you’ve been stealing money from the register.”
My grandson replied that he was not a thief and that he took this job to earn money, not steal it. Many other employees operate the cash register, which is only balanced once a day. What do you think is going on here?
A: I can’t say for sure, but here’s my best guess. With lax accountability and multiple register operators, management had no way of assigning blame when receipts began coming up short. In hopes of preventing future thefts, they decided to advise the thief that the missing money had been noticed.
Therefore, the key question is whether your grandson was the only one interrogated. If all register operators were questioned by HR, management is simply giving everyone a warning. But if he was singled out, then he is considered the likely suspect, possibly because he was a recent hire.
In either case, your grandson should view this as a bad sign and consider finding a better-managed restaurant. Since food service jobs tend to be plentiful, that shouldn’t be too difficult.