A key part of every leader’s role is to influence others, team members included, and influence them so that they maximise the positive impact that they have on your organisation.
I know, some team member situations are tricky, awkward, and even embarrassing. And it’s sometimes difficult to figure out how to approach them — that is, how to approach them such that your relationship, rapport, and trust with your team member is enhanced, not damaged.
So, you’ve been hoping it’ll sort itself out over time. But it hasn’t. And, deep down, you know that it’s not likely to.
I’m super confident that, once you’ve uncovered a way of comfortably dealing with tricky team member situations, you will, like the hundreds of executives I’ve coached, stop hesitating and get the situation resolved, once and for all.
(I apologise in advance here. I know that I take a tough line on this one. Remember, I’m on your side. I want you to be known as an indispensable, world-class leader.)
There are way too many negative repercussions of avoiding confronting a team member whose practices or behaviours are having a negative impact on the organisation.
I’m hoping that you’ll be up for turning this around (and confidently, courageously and quickly stepping up to any tricky situation) after we’ve dug into the considerable (and often not considered) consequences of avoiding confronting a team member.
So, first up, let’s look at the long list of consequences that can show up when you avoid confronting a team member…
The Consequences Of Avoiding Confrontation
Through talking with leaders and team members for more than two decades, it’s clear that not dealing with a team member’s less-than-satisfactory practices and behaviours has huge potential downsides on the team, the team member, and you.
For example, let’s say one of your team members, Tom, isn’t pulling his weight. Although he’s a senior leader, he comes in later and leaves earlier than his five peers. Plus, when he’s at work, he’s forever attending to family issues — one of his four children’s phone calls or emails, his wife’s need for lengthy chats during business hours, his sick father’s nursing home arrangements, etc.
Impact On The Team:
- Tom spending so much time, pretty much every day, on family matters is demotivating for his peers.
They understand that family matters need attention, but, in their minds, this has gone too far. They’re annoyed that Tom’s not putting in the hours, which harms the team’s results and threatens the success of the project.
- Morale is negatively impacted because they feel unfairly treated. Tom’s peers feel hard done-by because he’s not putting in the hours. Everyone else is going the extra mile (they stay back late and come in early) in attempts to have the project meet their quality and timeline goals.
- Productivity suffers. There’s always a high correlation between teamwork and productivity. Water cooler discussions take on a negative tone. A culture of mediocrity creeps in.
- Animosity builds in the team. The environment doesn’t feel good these days. And you’ve noticed how Tom’s frequently excluded by his peers.
- Team members feel disillusioned causing standards to drop and second-best performance being tolerated by many team members.
- Team members stop being authentic. You’re their model (perhaps unwittingly). They also avoid putting the tricky stuff on the table and getting it resolved.
Impact On The Team Member:
- Team members stop collaborating with Tom. Their distancing and their lack of respect for him will make Tom feel isolated, unengaged, and like he’s working in a silo.
- Tom won’t get feedback about his performance. He doesn’t know how unacceptable his lack of effort is, so he doesn’t realise that it needs to change.
- His salary increases have been disappointing. He’s also noticed that he’s not on the High Potentials list.
Impact On You:
- (This one will hurt, I know.) Team members respect you less because they know that you’re side-stepping dealing with Tom. They’re waiting for you to act and, if you don’t, it’ll detract from them seeing you as a confident and courageous leader — especially in tough situations when they most need to rely on you.
- You beat yourself up because, consciously or unconsciously, you know you’ve been side-stepping dealing with Tom’s performance. This self-talk stops you from seeing yourself as confident and courageous, and (because behaviours align with identity) this self-perception stops you from actually being confident and courageous!
- Team members stop trusting you to lead them effectively. And with reduced trust comes a truckload of other undesirables such as fractured relationships, reduced rapport, stilted communications.
- Your stress level increases. Your avoidance might even be costing you a good night’s sleep. (Don’t you hate being awake at 3 am!)
- Flight risks increase. Particularly your high-performers are more likely to toss in the towel and move to greener pastures where communications about performance is candid and fairness prevails.
- Your reputation as a world-class leader is at risk. People talk. Others in your organisation hear the water cooler gossips and know that you’re not confronting Tom.
Worse still, these unwanted outcomes impact your team’s results and increase the cost of doing business.
The obvious and hidden costs that come with avoiding dealing with a team member’s performance are huge, and they are costs that a world-class leader can’t afford.
Continued in Carolyn Stevens’ book, “Stepping Into Your Power“.