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I recently took over a bigger office and half of my team were recently hired right before I got here. And I also have a new boss now. This location has been struggling for the past few years with production, and my upper management would like me to improve production. This is the fifth location I’m managing, and every location I take over is always underperforming. Once I get in, my team turns the office into the most profitable and successful location in the company.

I’m realizing that the new employees that have only been for less than 4-5months are not liking what’s happening with the changes. I’m starting to hold all accountable for actions and results. I already issued couple of them disciplinary actions for things like not using time sheet properly. After multiple reminders - HR advised with proceeding with disciplinary action.

I’m now noticing that the new employees has formed a clique and I can tell they’re engaged in gossip, by only speaking with each other or only in their language.

One tells me that I’m micromanaging, breathing down her neck, yelling, miserable at work etc. I asked to give me an example and the example was when I asked this employee to answer the phone - I think she has a very different perceptions of yelling. It looks like she is taking any form of criticism as yelling. She continues to not stay informed or not answer the phone when it rings after reminding multiple times or when with customer always distracted with their cell phones or something that is not related to their work. Now they can no longer be on their cell phone all day long.

Couldn’t give me an example of breathing down her neck or being watched. But she says I don’t take lunch or breaks. They really shouldn’t be worrying about if I take my lunch or not. I believe she thinks she is being watched because they’re always on the lookout to see where I am or what I’m doing.

Another employee tells me similar things about micromanaging (I can tell that they’re teaming up with the complaints) But this employee continues to ignore what I’m asking him to do. Insubordination issues.

I know I can be direct. So, I examined the situation as objectively as possible. I also put myself in their shoes and I resists the urge to deny it without looking at the situation to learn why the employees may perceive my management as micromanaging. I also observed if the issue lies with micromanagement or the employees who simply do not like working under a manager. I also tried comparing my management style with other managers and supervisors I’ve had in the past, to determine whether I am managing more stringently or in a more involved fashion - setting expectations and following up if not completed.

I also think that discipline and accountability hurt. I can see that they just had a certain amount of freedom that wasn’t being wielded in a way that necessarily supports the mission of the company. Other employees that may not be involved in this clique is recognizing what’s going on and adapting; I believe complaining of micromanaging is because they no longer have the same freedom to do whatever they wanted to do.

I’m also looking at metrics since micromanaging complaint increasing, but performance with other employees are also increasing, maybe complaint is simply a reaction to greater accountability.

I have been keeping HR and my new boss updated with what’s going on. My boss tells me that they’re ganging up and I’m doing great and to keep everything documented. And he says he will assess the situation over the couple of months by getting HR involved and to feel them out.

I believe these employees complained about me. My boss wanted me to be off one of the day this week so he can visit the location and I guess observe and speak with them. But I thought it was awkward him asking me to be off instead of him just showing up. But everyone has different management style and maybe this is one of his strategies. Once again, this manager is new to me and he doesn’t say I’m doing anything wrong. I even asked him what can I do differently or to change my management style - he says change nothing.

But at the same time I think I’m overthinking, I haven’t had a situation where half of the team teams up and complain together.

What are your thoughts or suggestions to me to improve my management style?

Thank you!

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    The only thing that surprises me in your post is that this happens to you for the first time given you always take over underperforming branches. – BigMadAndy Jun 3 at 6:05
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    My boss wanted me to be off one of the day this week so he can visit the location and I guess observe and speak with them. But I thought it was awkward him asking me to be off instead of him just showing up. Your manager wants to see how they behave when you're not around. This is probably specifically about the micromanaging complaint: do they actually get their work done if you aren't there? – BSMP Jun 3 at 8:01
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    Workplaces can suffer from something like the Dunning–Kruger effect in regards to productivity. The least productive often think they are the most productive. Sounds like you landed in one. They don't see a problem so resent what they see as interference. It can be hard to give them a reality check without breaking a few eggs as the saying goes. – Brian Jun 3 at 17:43
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    Your boss may need your current efforts to get rid of a set of bad apples. – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Jun 4 at 15:17
  • I get a vibe that you came it with an agenda of "the employees are lazy and I'm going to teach them how to behave" and if I get that vibe from a single post on the web I'm sure some (if not all) of them are getting it from dealing with you in person... no wonder they are complaining. – cypher Jun 5 at 15:12
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Your team members feel like you micro-managing because you are. Having to tell someone to pickup the phone when it rings definitely falls in that category. The team objects to the micro-management, because they think you are micro-managing them for no reason. In their eyes, everything was working fine before you came along.

Make it clear to the team that there is a reason you are intervening with the way the team is usually operating, because the usual way is not good enough, and the team is under-performing.

When the team is understanding that you are not the problem, but the problem is that the upper management thinks the team isn't doing well (justified or not), then you can become the person in their eyes who can help them, instead of bothering them everyday.

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    Telling someone to pick up the phone when it is ringing is micromanaging. Telling someone who ignores the phone repeatedly when it is their job to answer the phone is not. – gnasher729 Jun 3 at 9:33
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    The solution boils down to "Tell them it's not you, it's your bosses". I've used this strategy before but I always have the impression it's very risky: 1) it sounds naive and most people won't believe it, 2) by using it you try to convince your subordinates you're just a pawn, a weak person with no influence, which can misfire easily and 3) I wouldn't like my superiors to learn I'm presenting them as "the baddies". – BigMadAndy Jun 3 at 17:46
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    @BigMadAndy I don't suggest to say "It's not me" or pretend to be on their side. I am suggesting to be clear about the fact that upper management thinks the team is under-performing and that I can see why. – Helena Jun 3 at 21:25
  • @gnasher729 What would be micro-management, if not that? To be clear, I think it is the right thing to do. Sometimes you have to micro-manage. – Helena Jun 3 at 21:27
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Well, well... this sounds so familiar. Not only considering the reports on the wide Internet, but also my own experience. I am still making efforts to learn how to handle situations - being in a position relatively similar to yours.

Rule 1: be on their side, be part of the team. When you started making rules before having a good contact with them, you positioned yourself outside. Now it will take more effort for you to turn the tables. What is worse, you already started taking disciplinary actions.

What I would do (and actually do, time and context permitting):

  • have 1-to-1 chats with the people; ask them about their problems, opinions, suggestions;
  • have team meetings, discuss openly the problems opinions, suggestions;
  • lead the discussions based on evidences / knowledge / proof, let the team come out with solutions; sometimes I choose one of their solutions as is; other times, I pick one or more of their solutions, and adjust them a bit, so i can agree to that; before making it official, I share the solution with them and ask for feedback.

It is much easier to drive people with honey, rather than with a stick. Of course, there will be always rebels, and people will always make mistakes. But as long as the main goals are achieved, the rest can be adjusted, forgiven.

Another thing: do not concentrate on finding the guilty people. Concentrate on solving the problem. Ideally, never punish anyone, even when they deserve it. Have face-to-face meetings with the "guilty" parties, explain them the situation, the expectations, and do not punish the. If they keep doing the bad stuff, and break their agreements, then you think about how to proceed - the best course of action being to involve HR - initially as an advisor only.


As a direction of study for you, is to read books about leadership and management. Also about building a successful team. They will open new horizons to you regarding the issues that you face.

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    Your suggestions are sensible, but my experience is that listening a lot, recognizing people's needs, etc. can actually misfire. Some people will treat that as a sign you're weak and treat you as such. – BigMadAndy Jun 3 at 6:11
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    @BigMadAndy: You are totally right, anything can misfire. Being kind can misfire. And being too authoritative can misfire also. You presented yourself as authoritative, that is why I suggested a direction to balance your way. You stared with just a bunch of people, and before you turned them into a team, you united them against yourself. Building a team takes time and special knowledge. Building a team goes through different stages, each of them with specific problems. You need to be prepared to deal with those problems. – virolino Jun 3 at 6:16
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    I'm not the author. But defending the author a bit, they write they started with a lot of reminders etc. and only then proceeded to disciplinary action. – BigMadAndy Jun 3 at 6:18
  • Sorry, I did not check your identity. It was unintentional. I continue to agree, that things are not easy. However, if people's willing cooperation is wanted, then coercion should be minimized. Going to any extreme (kindness vs. authority / coercion / punishment) will not work. Fear itself might work, but the efficiency and the quality of the results will be badly impacted. – virolino Jun 3 at 6:27

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