A rock and a hard place – Where can you go? (Case Study)

Have you ever been in a workplace situation where you felt cornered?
A colleague of mine is in just that situation, and I thought it made for an excellent case study.
This person works in a self managing role, within a larger company that has been around for several decades. Unfortunately, some new senior management has been hired. This director is not easy to work under, as he often makes personally offensive comments that at times could be interpreted as threats or harassment. These remarks are made mostly over the lunch hour, when the director arrives uninvited to the lunch table. The employees dislike this because it is their chance to decompress and socialize. They are afraid to report the unwanted behaviour. Human resources in this organization operates on a very basic level, mainly processing paperwork and ensuring that the workplace is safe to work in – physically that is.
It should also be noted that the new Director, after reviewing metrics for less than one month, has delivered a series of demands to each department.
Employees are unhappy, and many are considering finding work outside the company.

What can be done about this?
First, it may be the that the director is unaware his communication style is grating on others. What he likely considers friendly rivalry appears as aggressive and insensitive. Someone should take the director aside and have a non-judgemental conversation with him. Perhaps this is how his previous work culture operated.
Second, the Director has yet to evaluate the culture of the company. Many of his process changes may be redundant or inefficient, which could be uncovered by shadowing or interviewing the staff.
Third, some change management needs to be implemented. The reason behind all adjustments should be explained to employees long before they are implemented, as they will need time to acclimate. Objections and concerns must be sought out, and then addressed with potential plan changes.

If employees feel heard, respected, and valued, they will be less likely to leave.
Unfortunately, while the Director in this case study has the technical tweaking down pat, that is only one piece of what is required of him. Thoughtful communication is essential to success in management.

If you were my colleague, how would you approach this situation?
Alerting HR is certainly one option, however most employees fear impending retribution for finger pointing from both the Director, as well as the HR department.

Stay tuned for part two!

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