April 2011: How to get your team in shape for the new supervisor.
Question: I am a senior manager over a customer call center in Fortune 500 firm. I recently lost one of my more senior supervisors to a competitor. I am acting in his position until I find a replacement. Much to my surprise, and disappointment, he has been pretty lax about managing his team for the last few years.
So now I face the fact that I must replace him, while dealing with staff members who come and go as they please. Plus, they get combative and defensive when I try to enforce department policies and procedures.
How can I get this team in shape for the new supervisor?
Dr. Alice Waagen says: Let’s look at the silver lining around this thundercloud. During your search for a new supervisor, you are in charge and will be making all the decisions around the team performance.
1. Start right away to make crystal clear your expectations on the basics like attendance, dress code, work hours, paperwork, and so on.
2. Assume no knowledge of the right way to do things since it sounds like performance controls have been out of whack for quite some time. Yes, everyone will grumble but it should become clear in a short while who will adjust to your new leadership style and who will continue to buck the system.
3. In my experience, initially you will have the majority resisting compliance to rules and regulations. But if you are firm in your negative feedback and unrelenting in the consequences, most will fall in step.
4. Be prepared to let some of it go. You will inevitably get a small cadre of resistors who will fight you every step of the way. Your only recourse at this point is to fire the most egregious offender (Please do this with guidance and counsel of your HR and legal team to avoid any wrongful termination headaches). Again, experience tells me that once the staff realizes you mean business and will hold them accountable to the standards of professional conduct, they will adjust to the rules or will eventually select to work elsewhere.
5. Next, ask yourself how this happened in the first place. How did you become oblivious to the fact that the prior supervisor was not doing his job? Make sure you put in some form of oversight process so that the new supervisor keeps your standards of acceptable behavior.
Remember, the staff will be testing him or her to see if they can return to the old ways. Whether it is periodic walk-throughs, customer service feedback, or other methods, you need to be more in touch with the line operations to make sure you are not repeating this headache every few years.