Roadblocks/Solutions – house divided

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Discord between supervisors hurts morale
The owner of a small service firm is under considerable stress because of the problems caused by his two supervisors who don’t get along with each other. Both supervisors have some negative attributes, but they each also bring some real strengths to the organization.
One of them, on the down side, has a propensity for lying about small things and places unwarranted blame on the other supervisor. In addition, she undermines the company owner by supporting people’s complaints and siding with them against the policies of the firm. On the upside, she is very knowledgeable about the job and the industry, is well liked by the group she supervises, and she would be difficult to replace.
With the other supervisor there is no question about his commitment to the company. He takes on difficult tasks and works long hours. He has a good working relationship with the owner, but not with the group of people reporting to him. His resentment of the fact that “his” people go to the other supervisor for support is a continued source of conflict.
Morale in the office is down and so is productivity, and far too much of the owner’s time is spent addressing issues raised by the discord between the two supervisors.
The owner is not fulfilling his leadership responsibilities. Only he can manage the performance of his supervisors. Failure to do so threatens the stability of the company and diminishes his credibility as a leader with a clear sense of purpose and direction. Tough choices and the need to resolve difficult situations come with the territory.
This roadblock presents the owner with two issues to address. The first is the inability of his two supervisors to work together cooperatively. Many times people in the workplace find themselves working with someone with whom they have little in common or perhaps with a team member who has a difficult personality. People have their differences. Yet it must be made clear that professional courtesy and cooperation with others is a requirement of the job, no matter what the position. If someone is unable or unwilling to meet these requirements, then he or she should be replaced.
Has competitiveness between the two supervisors been inadvertently encouraged? Whatever the reasons, every effort should be made to coach the individual to correct the behavior and hold her accountable.
If these solutions don’t bring about the desired changes in the two supervisors, the owner’s only choice is to take steps to replace the offending supervisor – for the good of the company as well as for his own well-being.
Solutions to Roadblocks is provided by The Performance Group inc, a Brookfield training and consulting firm.
May 1998 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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