4

Two of my team members, Alice and Tina were sent to attend a 3 week seminar. It is being held in the residing city. Both are good contributors to the team but I haven't observed any animosity between them.

Today was their first day. Tina had called me up and gave me an informal update about it. At the same time, she is upset about what Alice said to her. Alice is friends with other teammates in the office; so, she kept telling Tina that it would have been better if XYZ was at the seminar. It was more of mumbling and it happened 4-5 times.

Tina wants to attend the seminar but is upset with Alice's behaviour. Now, since this information was passed on to me informally, I was wondering how best to handle this as the manager for both Alice & Tina.

The options I'm currently considering are:

  1. Call up Alice and ask her casually about the seminar and tell her in a very casual tone that she needs to make new acquaintances as she moves outside the office. No mention of Tina here.

  2. Call up Alice and tell her that Tina is hurt by what she said. And she needs to be more open about acquaintances.

Kindly suggest other possible options.

19

Even as their manager (perhaps especially as their manager) if a formal complaint has not been filed then I think you should stay out of it. This honestly doesn't sound like a particularly serious issue (Tina is offended that Alice wanted XYZ to be there. OK, so what? Tina will probably get over it by herself.)

If you speak to Alice about this, it's going to sound like a formal complaint was filed, and that could potentially just make things worse. Especially if Tina is unaware that you decided to do so.

Console Tina if she chooses to confide in you, and tell her you don't think Alice meant any offense by her remark, but don't speak to Alice unless Tina does decide to escalate to a formal complaint.

  • Yep. I am going to mind my own business unless it is a formal complaint. – WonderWoman Sep 25 '18 at 16:38
2

A manager gets informed about an employee about a sensitive situation in the team that includes another employee in the team.

First thing: the manager gently checks the other side of the story with the other employee.

Second thing (assuming the other side of the story is still not known): what is the mistake in this situation? Is it that Alice expressed a direct opinion to Tina? Not really, team members should be able to speak freely. Is it that Alice did not create any positive outcome from her action? Maybe. Or maybe Tina knows now that she is not perfect. Is Alice right in her judgement? Maybe yes, maybe no, who knows.. Is it that Alice is hurt? Feeling hurt is relative. I may feel hurt to hear that I did not pass the exam and John did. Still, John should not be punished for this.

Conclusion: should the manager take action? Since the impact is low, action is not justified.. The incident should be logged for monitoring purposes :)

Side note: the manager may be influenced more easily by employees who give unsolicited "informal updates".

2

I would actually explore this a bit with both of them. It's my opinion that you should always be trying to develop and improve your employees, and that furthermore "little things" should be handled as they come instead of being a surprise in a performance review or the like.

Let's say Alice was doing this a lot to various people - if someone's continuously micro-aggressioning others on the team, I'd certainly consider that poor teamwork and leadership come review time, yes? And that it's possible that Alice is doing this accidentally? It's an opportunity to learn.

So later in a regular one-on-one meeting, I'd ask Alice about how the conference went, then mention "Hey, Tina said you mentioned several times that someone else should be there instead of her, what's up?" Listen to the response and reply. "Oh I didn't mean she shouldn't be there, I just wish X was also along!" "Yes, X is working on a more relevant project so it seems like a misallocation of resources." "Yes, I hate the way Tina breathes and wish she would die." Whatever. Then you can say "Oh, well she felt bad maybe you should mention something to her" or "Well, I try to give all of you development opportunities beyond your current project," or "That's not professional behavior", whatever's required.

Employee development is an ongoing effort and not something that is just about "formal complaints" and "formal actions." In fact, if there are formal complaints and actions it means that someone's been letting things slip way before it comes to that point.

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