How To Deal With Challenging Behaviour From An Employee

Nobody said that leadership was easy. Even the most experienced leaders can face challenges that frustrate, surprise and sometimes even upset them. The way in which a person deals with such issues, is a real test of their leadership qualities.

“For leadership to be successful, employees have to believe in it, and invest in it,” writes Kieran Howells in Executive Grapevine. In other words, an employee has to trust that the leader will direct them the best way. If that trust is lost, there are major implications for the workplace. According to Howells, “As soon as employees start questioning the motives or decisions of the boss, the system breaks down significantly.”

This wavering trust in a leader, or disbelief in their actions, can manifest itself in myriad ways. A fairly common example is an employee bypassing their own manager and connecting with their manager’s boss instead. Having an employee go over your head can feel insulting, embarrassing and frustrating. Rather than venting your anger on the offending employee, or shaming them publicly, it is important to act professionally, with tact and sensitivity.

How To Tackle An Employee Going Over Your Head

Find out why: Was it an intentional move or simply a lack of understanding of the way in which the organisation works? Learning the thought process behind the employee’s decision to contact your boss directly (rather than you), may highlight areas of knowledge or communication that need to be developed. Identifying your team members’ gaps in understanding enables you to put measures in place to fix them.

Gauge their feelings: Do they trust and respect you as their leader? Perhaps they find you difficult to approach or unwilling to listen to their perspective. Communicating openly and effectively with your employee can help to improve your relationship and find better ways of working together. Being aware of their concerns is the first step towards addressing them and preventing a repeat of the situation.

Talk to your boss: Your employee’s action may have set alarm bells ringing in your manager’s head. It’s important to reassure them that you have the situation in hand and that you are working with your employee to rectify any issues. Showing that you are being proactive to improve potential areas of conflict or dissatisfaction should allay concerns about your capabilities.

Test the climate of your team: Discovering that there is a gap in alignment or perception between you and your team can be confronting for a leader, but knowledge is power. Once you know the areas that need to be improved or worked on and the causes of discontent for your team members, you can act on those insights.

If you’d like to find out more about the PCS process and the ways in which we can help leaders to gain valuable insights into their employees’ feelings, please contact us.

Zac's Challenges:

Zac’s tech business is growing rapidly. He’s gone from being a developer with a good idea to now overseeing an ever-expanding team. Zac knows that in order for the business to grow successfully, it needs to stay true to its founding values and his staff need to feel valued and engaged. Zac wants to understand if he and his team are on the same page and he needs to do it quickly and cost effectively.

Zac's PCS Solution

Zac decides to use PCS Lite to get a quick temperature check of how his team are performing and what they think about the business. The PCS Lite report quickly surfaces the fact that his team have lost sight of the organisation’s purpose and goals. Zac realises that he needs to improve his on-boarding processes and help orientate the new team members better in the company culture and vision. 6 months later, Zac uses PCS Lite to check his new onboarding process is working; concludes that the growing team are much better aligned to his vision and are generally operating in a more positive working environment.

Annabel's Challenges:

It’s Annabel’s job to help the Partners in the firm manage their clients and ensure they’re consistently adding value. Recently, Annabel has been asked by one of the Partners to find a tool or framework that the consultants can use to benchmark new clients looking for team and leadership improvement programmes. It needs to be cost-effective, established and reputable and able to be branded with the firm’s own logo.

Annabel's PCS Solution

Annabel recommends PCS Pro to the Senior Partners as it provides an objective measurement of team and leadership climate against which the consultants can build performance improvement programmes. PCS has a good track record, academic validation, excellent training and customer service, so she’s confident that it’s the right tool for the firm’s consultants to use.

Sarah's Challenges:

Sarah has to keep across the multiple training and development needs in the organisation and do it within a tight budget. Recently, Sarah’s been asked to design a L&D programme that improves the staff retention rate and helps staff feel more engaged with the changes happening in the organisation, not least the shift to more flexible working.

Sarah's PCS Solution

Sarah uses PCS to measure how different teams across the organisation are performing and look at any patterns which suggest the need for organisation-wide, leader or team training. Sarah notices that all teams and leaders have a low climate score in the Processes segment. Sarah knows that allocating budget in this area will improve performance. She works with the Senior Management Team to review the organisation’s processes as they transition to more flexible working and designs a training programme to support staff in the transition. She’s helped staff to feel supported, acknowledged and engaged which ultimately drives performance. 

Jim's Challenges:

Jim’s client has a team that’s not performing as well other teams in the organisation. The team has a high staff turnover, sickness and the lack of cohesion is impacting the team’s wellbeing and performance. Jim needs to get to the bottom of why this is happening and design effective coaching interventions which can generate tangible results for his client.

Jim's PCS Solution

Jim uses PCS Pro to measure / benchmark how the team and leader are performing across the 6 segments critical to team performance – Goals, Roles, Processes, Adaptability, Connection and Resilience. He can immediately see the disparity in Goals, Processes and Connection between the leader’s perception and those of her team. He uses this information to build a coaching programme designed align team and leader. After 6 months, the team seems to be more settled and productive. Jim remeasures using PCS Pro – the results show the client the effectiveness of his coaching intervention.