Dealing With Bully Employees

January 29, 2013

A great deal of attention is given in these types of columns to managers as bullies.  On this occasion however we will talk about the employee as the bully.  To bring this difficult situation to life we will discuss a real life situation faced by one of our executive coaches.

In this particular situation we were supporting a business owner who ran a successful insurance franchise.

Following a very successful year she reviewed the commission structure and realised that she had miscalculated the rates she was paying.  On the advice of her accountant she revised the commission rates and gave her employees (her insurance sales force) of the changes giving due notice as agreed under the terms of their contracts.

Of the eight sales people only one decided he would take exception to the changes.  Even though his remuneration package was much better than any of the other franchises, he decided to bully his manager about the changes and hijacked another meeting that was discussing something else.

What particularly upset her was that she had tried so hard to be a good employer and had been very generous in the past.  Now that she had to make the hard decisions she was finding it difficult handling an employee who did not like her decision.

When she brought the issue to one of our coaches she was very worried and had not slept very well in the previous few nights.  She was due to hold a one-to-one meeting with this individual the next day to discuss his business plan and wanted help in dealing with the situation.

Here is a summary of the strategy developed with her coach and successfully implemented during the meeting.

Take Back Control

It was agreed with the coach that she would be assertive in setting out the agenda at the beginning of the meeting specifying that a period at the END of the meeting would be set aside for discussing the recent change to commission structure for the coming year.

By doing this the manager was effectively saying to her employee that it would be only be discussed on her terms and when she was ready to talk about it.

Talk About The Facts

As part of her preparation the manager made sure she had every fact available to her concerning the dispute.  Whilst she didn’t feel she had to justify herself, there were certain information regarding what people in similar situations were receiving.  Rather than be sucked into an argument about different opinions she would inform the person that this adjustment was being made to safeguard the future of the business and therefore everybody’s jobs within it.

Avoid Becoming Emotional

The manager knew that she was a sensitive person and often wore her ‘heart on her sleeve’ but knew in order to keep control she would need to adopt a more assertive persona.  Talking only about facts would help this process.

Give The Person A Choice

It was agreed that if the manager had explained the situation, had been ‘fair and reasonable’ and still the sales person had complained, then she would say something along the lines of, ‘I’m disappointed that you feel this way and whilst I would be very sorry to lose you, you do have a choice whether to work here or not’

In the event the sales person concerned finally backed down and the manager had regained control.

Sometimes as managers we have to contend with what is known as the ‘employee’ mentality.  People with this mindset fail to appreciate the wider commercial issues.  In fact it can be worth sharing with employees these commercial issues so that they can see for themselves the impact on the sustainability of the business.

If you are interested is using a coach to support you, please feel to contact us.

Many thanks

Scott Rumsey

Senior Management Trainer & Consultant at MTD Training

(Image by Jacey F)

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