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Ask manager about department's goals

Q: Ever since our department was transferred to a different area of the company, morale has been going downhill rapidly. The main reason for this decline is that we have begun reporting to a new vice president. "Greg" is an aggressive executive who seems to have a "my way or the highway" attitude.

In addition to being very tough on employees, Greg ignores all suggestions made by the managers who supervise them. As members of the management team, we would like to convince Greg that we are really on his side. We just want him to go a little easier on the troops. Any ideas?

A: After a reorganization, people often make the mistake of firmly maintaining that past practices should be continued. But even if this advice is well-intentioned, management can easily view it as resistance to change. Therefore, if you wish to show Greg that you are "on his side," you need to stop suggesting and start listening.

Instead of pointing out Greg's missteps, ask what he hopes to accomplish with your group. Once you understand his goals, you may be able to show how your proposals could help to achieve them. You should also find out why upper management decided to relocate your department, since their expectations will undoubtedly influence Greg's decisions.

When presenting suggestions, choose your words wisely. For example, if you say "go easier on the troops," Greg may hear "accept mediocre performance." But if you propose a structured process for helping employees adapt to new standards, he may view that as helpful. In short, if Greg believes that you are open to his ideas, he may be more willing to consider yours.

Reason for exclusion might make sense

Q: Several months ago, our entire human resources management team was fired. I was promoted to fill one of the manager positions, then a director and two other managers were brought in from the outside. These three people are all minorities, and I am a white male.

From the beginning, my new boss has left me out of important discussions. Today, for example, he scheduled a meeting with the other two managers, but I was not invited. When I asked if I could attend, he said the topic didn't involve me. He also seems to view my projects as insignificant and has made them a lower priority.

After 16 years with this company, I can't understand why I'm being treated this way. What do you think is happening here?

A: By highlighting the group's racial composition, you appear to be offering this as the reason for your exclusion. While that might be an easy explanation, you should avoid jumping to this conclusion until you've considered other possibilities.

Dismissing an entire leadership team is a radical move, so top management clearly has serious concerns about the HR department. Your new director has undoubtedly been given a strong directive for change and is under pressure to produce results. Therefore, his attention is likely to be focused on specific, critical goals.

Under these circumstances, you may have been marginalized because, at the moment, your function is considered less essential. Another possibility is that, as a member of the "old guard," you are viewed as less open to new approaches. But of course this is all speculation.

To obtain a more informed opinion, consider locating a trustworthy mentor by tapping into your internal network. Since you were promoted after the mass firing, you obviously have supporters in management, so you should be able to find someone who can give you the real scoop.

If you ultimately conclude that you are experiencing discrimination, then you will have legal options to consider. That would be a drastic step, so you don't want to go there too quickly.

Ask manager about department's goals 12/19/13 [Last modified: Thursday, December 26, 2013 6:01pm]
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