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I have been made leader of my team at work 3 months ago. I have 5 team members to oversee.

Person A, a brand new member of staff was added to our team around the same time I was made team leader. Although I had no say in choosing her, I think she's hardworking, keen to learn and likable.

However, two key members of my team, B and C, have approached me today to complain about her, saying she doesn't use common sense, that she neglects some of her work, and that she is argumentative.

I've observed before that both B and C pick on other colleagues, not limited to team members, really gunning for them and talking about them behind their back. While I don't entirely discount what they have to say, I feel that they may be exaggerating smaller issues, especially because this has been their pattern before.

My other concern is that A has only had on-the-job training, which in our work is not satisfactory as work is too fast paced. I have asked the training office to arrange training for her on multiple occasions, but in vain. Therefore, she could be making mistakes due to a lack of training.

To top it all off, B and C claim that a third team member is ready to quit over this.

How should I tackle this, as B and C seem keen for this to escalate?

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    What type of work are we talking about? Also adding a location tag to this will help. – Mister Positive Feb 8 '18 at 15:10
  • And some formatting please! – Daniel Feb 8 '18 at 15:20
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    Do you have previous management experience? Is the team's former manager still reachable to get his take on the people involved? Have you had previous conversations with the team members about their performance/behaviour? – Lilienthal Feb 8 '18 at 15:45
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    Have you talked to Person A? Don't bring up the accusations, but how do they feel about how things are going since joining the team? – Seth R Feb 8 '18 at 16:02
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    Are you a manager or a team leader? If you're not a manager, this isn't your problem. If you don't have the authority, don't try to take on the responsibility. – Wesley Long Feb 9 '18 at 18:06
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First of all, it seems a little ridiculous that someone who's been with the company for a while would be on the verge of quitting after only 3 months of working with a newbie. If anything, it is far more likely that this person would come talk to you about it, or already has other grievances that you're unaware of (perhaps working with those other two has driven them up the wall? Who knows.)

Either way, it seems like you have some fact checking to do.

Bring the third team-member in for a private conversation, and ask them what their opinion on the situation is. Be subtle, and let the employee vent. Steer the conversation based on their statements:

Thank you for coming to see me, [Name Here]. I've heard rumors of some tension in the team, and I wanted to ask you whether you feel this is the case.

See what he says. Maybe he'll refute the claim on its face. Or perhaps he'll say that yes, things have been a little strained lately. You can then maneuver the conversation such that you give this person the opportunity to voice any concerns about their newest team-mate. If nothing comes up you can end the conversation like so:

Thank you for bringing these issues to my attention. It's something I'll look into, and please don't hesitate to speak to me about any future concerns. By the way, before you go, how are things working out with the newbie? Are you guys getting along?

See what he says.

Last but not least I'd also bring in the newbie for a 1 on 1. Ask her how she's adjusting to the environment, and how she's getting along with the team. Are there any projects she's struggled with? Why? Which challenges did she enjoy most, and which did she find frustrating?

Allow her to vent, and look for patterns: are the issues she's been frustrated with all a part of projects where she's worked with the two trouble makers? It would be very telling if that were the case.

What I would also suggest is that going forward you would start having at least monthly 1 on 1 meetings with your developers, and allow them to speak to you about anything that may be on their minds, from how projects are progressing, to whether they're excited about the latest Star Wars movie. Get to know them as people, and you'll find these sort of conflicts easier to get to the bottom of in the future.


As far as training for the newbie is concerned, you are her manager, and you need to take decisive action if you feel she needs more mentoring. If the training office is ignoring you, find some sort of online course or webinars that she could attend, and schedule time for her to do so.

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    +1 Spot on answer. Time to nip this in the bud and confront the issue head on. If OP doesn't take ownership of the problem things could spiral out of control. – Lumberjack Feb 8 '18 at 20:40
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    Monthly check-ins work wonders. I concur you should try this out if you're able. – bluescores Feb 9 '18 at 19:37
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I've observed both of these staff members pick on other members of our team or other teams in the past, really gunning for them and talking about them behind their back.

Two people with a history of picking on others that you've witnessed first hand. This is what you know from experience, this is truth. Their claims against Person A are as of now unsubstantiated. Because you're bothering to post on StackExchange and not simply take them at their word, you don't just implicitly trust them.

Is Person A fulfilling her job duties? Yes? Person B and C need to stop worrying about what Person A is doing. It's that simple. If Person A is so heinously underperforming that her co-workers are making complaints, as team lead you will have no problem corroborating their claims.

If you want to interview people and play detective, you're running the risk of inadvertently escalating the situation when any one of these interviewees catches wind of what's going on, or worse catches only gets an inkling that you're hiding something, it's going to make things worse. You're then contributing to the politicking, rumor-milling, and drama. No bueno, it's not good for company culture.

How should I tackle this?

Be transparent with B and C. Their complaints are noted and you will keep an eye on Person A. And you should do so. Person B and C should continue with their work. If they're not able to move on, that becomes a different problem that you might want to reach out to your own manager

as B and C seem keen for this to escalate?

B and C aren't in leadership positions, you are. I understand this sounds a bit heavy-handed, but there's a different between clear/open communication and coercion. As a team lead, I would imagine you will work closely enough with all three people to make your own judgement of Person A.

If Person B and C have decided it's her or them, it's likely time for B and/or C to move on; if you give in to their demands you will have set a precedence for them to hold you (or anyone else) hostage again down the road. Entertaining this kind of childish ultimatum is no way to operate, and certainly doesn't set your team up for success.

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I would give her chance. Important is her attitude and you mentioned her positives which sounds very good. It is quite normal that at the beginning new people do not work most optimal, can make mistakes etc., especially if pace is fast.

You need to assess, whether she is worth to invest in her or not. But it looks like she is and these guys are mean and they are not able to look from a different perspective than their own.

As you said she needs some training, also more understanding, maybe help and just a chance.

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It sounds like you have 2 issues.

  • First you have a new team member who may or may not be getting her work done, and possibly making mistakes. You have no other evidence except hearsay and circumstantial evidence, such as the fact that she's new.

  • Secondly, you have 2 team members whom you have witnessed, first-hand, gossiping and bullying other co-workers that aren't even on your team. This is a problem. It sounds like you have 2 team members who have form a little gang, and are going out of their way to make your workplace a difficult place to be. This is true regardless of whether or not other people are doing work correctly or even on their team.

On the first issue, you should just work with her the way you would with any other new team member. You haven't witnessed her work slipping or heard from people without a conflict of interest. It doesn't sound like you have any good reason to treat her differently, other than she's new.

On the second issue, my suggestion is to nip this in the bud as soon as possible. Your team members are causing unnecessary drama, and making the workplace uncomfortable and hostile. No one likes to be around bullies, even if they aren't the target. It's possible that the third employee wants to quit due to their drama, not due to the new person. Plus, this behavior is the only behavior you have personally witnessed. If you have a company values statement or something like that to refer to, maybe you can use that to help show those employees why their bullying and dramatics needs to stop.

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They say that she doesn't use common sense, that she neglects some of her work, and that she is argumentative.

The "argumentative" part is kind of hilarious: it sounds like two big-headed guys unable to respect the right of opinion and unable to receive criticism; the situation might be that she kindly told them "I think you are wrong" on some topic and they went mad over it. About lack of common sense and neglecting work, well, it's their word. A rumour. Accusing/blaming some on the ground of rumours is not really fair.

I've observed both of these staff members pick on other members of our team or other teams in the past, really gunning for them and talking about them behind their back.

So you do have an unpleasant track record about these two guys, then; now, to me, they look even more big-headed.

Well, raising a concern does not automatically mean that such concern is founded/justified. As of now, I'd just acknowledge what they said without escalating with her, and just keep an eye open to see whether their accusations are real rather than allegations.

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    Whether the complaints are founded or not, it is important for OP to take action to address the concerns. If the staff members feel ignored or blown off, this will only escalate. – Lumberjack Feb 8 '18 at 20:41
  • @Lumberjack you can't take actions upon something that is not proven and/or documented and that is only based on rumours. I've never seen a criminal being imprisoned on the grounds of allegations, rather, there are people who investigate and, in the end, bring evidences. That's why I said "keep an eye open", the team leader DOES need to investigate, but other than that he cannot take "actions" so far. – Markino Feb 9 '18 at 8:02
  • The manager does have evidence. Against two trouble makers. – gnasher729 Feb 9 '18 at 8:29
  • @gnasher729 yeah, sure about them. I was speaking about their victim, instead. – Markino Feb 9 '18 at 12:06
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A lot of these answers focus on the negative, trying to solve any possible conflicts.

But people are not perfect, and it is impossible to solve all conflicts. That is why it is always important to put some focus on what everyone is doing right.

In our group, once a year, we ask everyone what they appreciate about each person and what this other person brings to the team. This can go two ways. In one way everyone leaves feeling positive. In the other way people can't hold their judgment and will tell what they do not appreciate about others. This makes this tactic a great way to find out what are the actual important conflicts.

Either way it is a useful thing to do, and in my opinion far superior over asking if one sees problems in another person. People are always a lot more influenceable than one would expect. Asking such a leading question is a surefire way to make people see mistakes in others.

protected by Mister Positive Feb 15 '18 at 13:20

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