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The previous manager repeatedly pushed his employees too hard to complete artificial goals earlier than necessary. After 2 years of some of the best employees quit and this the manager was removed, but the remaining employees are rather disillusioned now, and not very motivated. What can be done to help them believe in the vision of the company again? What can I do to help show them the company values them?

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I think this: pm.stackexchange.com/questions/3953/… on how to avoid team burnout will also help you in your situation. –  Michael Durrant Jun 22 '12 at 3:00
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@MichaelDurrant +1. Great answer. Ask every week "what can I do to help you - it's my job?" –  KK. Jun 22 '12 at 3:18
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At this point, they'll likely never give a hoot about the company's vision - that ship has sailed... but, be the boss you want to be, and they can definitely believe in yours. –  SnOrfus Jun 22 '12 at 12:51

4 Answers 4

up vote 21 down vote accepted

Get examples of other things the previous manager did and mitigate the issues. Don't just do the opposite, but try to get to the root problem.

  • If the problem was artificial goals; get them involved with the setting of goals and schedule.
  • If it was too many hours each week; increase the breadth and depth of the team, that will ease the burden on each team member.
  • If it was ridiculous policies - those that you expect were written by dogbert; get rid of them, and replace them with employee benefits.

One word of caution. Don't go overboard with the trashing of the previous manager. There may still be supporters on the team, or within the company.

If the offenses committed by the previous leader were egregious enough to fear a lawsuit or EEO complaint, then ask for help from HR and senior management.

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+1: Don't just do the opposite, but try to get to the root problem. –  KK. Jun 22 '12 at 3:47
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+1 on not trashing the previous manager. The less said about the past the better. Concentrate on building a better future for the team and the company. –  Jim In Texas Jun 22 '12 at 4:14
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+1 bring HR in. –  acolyte Jun 22 '12 at 12:34
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I would even say you should not trash the previous manager at all. You should simply make the changes. You won't be asked the reason you change a policy that your team knows was written by dogbert, if asked by your supervisor simply explain your attempting to make postive changes. If this supervisor was fire they are unlikely to question you, if this person simply left you might be, if this person was liked and left then you will be. –  Ramhound Jun 22 '12 at 13:44

You want to become the person they will walk through fire for. Then they will care about the company goals because you do. But first you need to gain their trust. In my career I've had 4 different managers like that and the people that worked for them showed a dedication that other managers simply don't get. They had a common groups of qualities.

First thing is to criticize in private and praise publicly. I know that sounds really basic but most of the managers I have observed fail on this one. And praise often. And praise them to people higher than you in the organization and do it in their presence so they know you are telling management about their good qualities. Say thank you. Give gift cards for performance on a particular project if you have the budget for it. Heck do it onece a month out of your personal funds if you have to. One 25 gift certificate isn't going to kill you and it means a lot to the people who get them. Give the gift of time off. When you expect them to work overtime - make sure they get some comp time (even unofficially) afterwards. If the company has an awards system, make sure to nominate one of your people in every awards cycle and let them know they were nominated even if they don't win.

Your job is to help them by removing roadblocks to getting their work done. So talk to them about the roadblocks and what needs to happen. Have an open door policy and schedule time to talk to them individually. It will take time and patience until they will be willing to open up to you. Once they have seen you identify and remove some roadblocks they wil be more open about the problems.

Never shoot the messenger. You want people to come to you with problems and they won't if they are afraid you will punish them for having a problem. Encourage them to come to you with possible solutions too. If they bring up something without a solution, ask them what they think should be done to fix the issue. Listen carefully.

Pitch in to help when things are tough. Nothing is more demotivating than a manager who leaves at 5 and expects you to work until midnight to meet a deadline. If you need to go over and beyond for a particular project, make sure they understand why and make sure they get credit for going beyond the call of duty.

Make the goals achieveable. They have been burned by this, so they need to know you will be reasonable. This isn't always in your control, so fight for it in management meetings and if you lose, make sure they know that you presented their side.

Some managers seem to think they must always take the company side. People laugh at these people when they tell you that this policy is the best thing since sliced bread when it clearly is not. You can't afford to have them disrespect you because you try to tell them that management above them is perfect and all decisions are great. Tell them the truth. "Yes this policy is not perfect and yes we tried to get something else in its place and were shot down. But it is what it is and how can we make the best of it?"

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I am not a manager.


There are two things. First is to assure your teammates that you will not let the same old issues come in the place of their workplace experience. You can talk or email them and tell them that artificial goals and impossible schedules (and condescending behavior?) will exist no more, and that you will personally make sure this happens (provided your company's hierarchy does not come in the way). Be sure to point out that the erring manager was removed from the team/company and that what he did was as unacceptable to the company as to them. Accepting what was wrong is the first step towards making things right.

Secondly, you must show your team that you care by doing more than talking. Generally, managers exist to shield employees from the company hierarchy (my opinion), but usually it is the other way around. You are supposed to be the team's advocate. Fight for better schedules with upper management. Make sure any points raised by your teammates reach upto the upper management, after all the team is better qualified and equipped. A day's off after reaching a milestone etc. will fell refreshing/relieving and like their work has been noticed. Since you have not provided any context, have a look at this answer and see if providing some of these benefits can work for you.


Make sure you work on both above aspects. If you do the talking only, you will gain your team's faith only temporarily. But only providing material incentives or better goal-schedules will make it seem like you are just trying to retain people. (In my previous (small) workplace, when the owner found out there was mass resignation underway, he (only) allowed us to come to work in jeans, but we knew what he wanted (employee retention) since he was not willing to accept his faults (same as the previous manager's, plus bad business decisions etc.))

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+1 for not being a manager. –  Graham Borland Jun 22 '12 at 9:32

This problem may not take as long as you think to recover from. Since they are already employed there it is in their best interest to as well as yours to move forward instead of looking back. Sure they are hurt and disillusioned. Do not try and rob them of their right to feel that way about how they were treated. Do not make excuses for the previous manager, and do not make him the villain.

The best thing you can do for your team is to set policies and tone that will be consistent with the team you want to lead. It you go to extra efforts to recover then you will either have to continue those extraordinary efforts as the norm or the team will think you were just putting on a show and are no different than the last guy. So set good policy and standards, and be consistent with them.

Get your team engaged. Set up regular one on one meetings with then and take their concerns seriously. Give your team chances to be hero's. It is easy to want to be the guy with the ball not the coach on the sidelines. Let your team be the ball carriers. Give them the glory(credit) for their work and ideas. Do not step on your team to climb higher on the ladder. If you can do these things then your team will come around.

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