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My superior is leaving the team I have been a part of for 10 months. Over the span of those 10 months he addressed to us several problems with some users by making snarky comments like "We technically shouldn't be doing this" while doing some bad practices that for the sake of privacy I won't disclosure.

Now that my superior is leaving, he told us that he mistakenly thought he was helping them by doing this one or two times out of sympathy, but those bad practices became an habit over the course of years. Now, with him stepping down; my colleague and I(two remaining members of the team, he's been 1 year on the job, I have been 10 months) want to change this, we are aware that these practices should cease to exist and are working with the interim superior(another higher up) to make the according changes.

Now, the users seem to be having a problem with these changes. They get mad at us and think we don't want to help them, the recurrent sentence is "Winnie Pooh(fictional name for former superior) used to do this super quick and without asking so many details". We keep getting compared to him cause apparently, for them, implementing this new policy is us refusing to help them.

Users were notified that some changes were going to happen and mentioned a most if not all of them(at the time being, which were the most important ones) in a memo; so it's not only that we wanted to, we first asked our interim superior who took this matter to the board and after that we got the "You're good to go" talk.

So, now seeing we have a lot of dissatisfied users, we're feeling somewhat down cause of obvious reasons but we don't want to back down from our much needed work plan. So after the long explanation of the situation the question is: How can we convince our users to forget the past days and follow the new policy without so many complaints?

PS: Some comments mention that users were "forced" to cheat our system cause of any reason, I can't go into detail but trust me when I say bad practices were being performed, among several departments of the company.

closed as unclear what you're asking by Lilienthal, Chris E, Dawny33, paparazzo, The Wandering Dev Manager Mar 2 '16 at 13:32

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    Can you clarify? Your heading suggests you want to retrain some coworkers, where you question says you want to roll out a new policy to users. – Amy Blankenship Feb 29 '16 at 17:13
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    Don't bother giving such a long backstory if you can't actually describe the situation. I still can't figure out what the real problem or question is here. (VTC Unclear) – Lilienthal Feb 29 '16 at 18:19
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    @JustDoIt it's not just Lilenthal who doesn't understand the question. We are asking for clarification because your question is not clear. – Richard U Feb 29 '16 at 18:26
  • Fine, I really can't go into such detail like saying brands or names which is probably what y'all looking for, I'm having a real issue here and I don't want to say more than needed if my question can't be understood with the information provided I'll just ask a mod to delete it. Thanks to Philipp and JeffO for their suggestions. I'll try to figure out a solution by myself then. Appreciate your comment @RichardU – Just Do It Feb 29 '16 at 18:29
  • @JustDoIt Please refrain from trying to make snide remarks. I explained why I voted to close so you can improve your question. You still haven't made it clear whether you're talking about coworkers or users which is a crucial distinction. We don't need details as long as the question is clear but we aren't psychic: if you can't clarify your question or explain your situation in detail we can only guess at what you're trying to do. – Lilienthal Feb 29 '16 at 18:31
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Thank you for your clarification, now I feel I can answer.

My superior at a previous job had a motto, "if you do it once, it becomes your job". Unfortunately, the problem, as you have correctly identified, is that your past superior made the exceptions part of your duties.

What you're faced with now is not so much of a new policy, but the enforcement of one that had been neglected.

As for how to handle it going forward, you'll find you'll go through several phases.

Right now, you have to deal with the anger. The end users are facing two things:

  1. Change, and there is always resistance to it.
  2. The feeling that their lives have been made more difficult.

The first one will fade in time, especially if you take this as an opportunity to explain whatever benefits the users will experience, such as. "The way the old policy was (not) being implemented could cause trouble for (users) because XYZ could and did happen.

Since these practices required an overhaul of the policy in general, they were obviously as bad as you say, and I imagine they would have had bad consequences for the end users as well, that is what you need to focus on.

The most important thing to do when managing expectations is to address the old WIIFM. (What's in it for me?).

Come up with a short, but informative explanation of why enforcing the policy is better for the users, and give them a way to channel their concerns. Use this as an opportunity for process improvement through end user feedback. Listen to their complaints and see what you can do to improve their workflow. You can go from being the villain to being the hero if you handle this correctly.

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You need to explain to your users not just what the new policy is but also acknowledge that the old instructions were wrong, why they need to be replaced and what consequences it can have if the old shortcuts are still used and how the new way can be beneficial for everyone.

Example:

We used to dump our radioactive waste into the kitchen sink, but we found out that this is actually a violation of environmental regulation XCV-6745. From now on, please fill it into the yellow barrel with the radioactive sticker on it. Otherwise we might get a hefty fine by the OSHA. We also assume that following this policy from now on might reduce the number of mutated alligator attacks in the restroom.

But don't forget that you are making people's live harder by introducing a more complicated policy which leads to frustration. Even when they understand that it is beneficial in the grand order of things, they might still vent their frustration from time to time.

  • It was done and thoroughly explained in the first memo we sent out – Just Do It Feb 29 '16 at 18:00
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    @JustDoIt Maybe they have a point and your new policy is causing more work for them than it saves for you? Hard to tell when you don't provide an actual example. – Philipp Feb 29 '16 at 18:08
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    I'll stand by my point: I think your users had to cheat the system because it doesn't meet their business needs, so you'll need to get your internal product owner to talk to the users who are having problems and consider enhancing your system with whatever they need. – Rup Feb 29 '16 at 18:31
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I think that perhaps what is being missed here is the emotional as well as the rational response. People are put out by the fact that they have to do work that they formerly didn't have to do. While you have completely legitimate reasons for that, people need their emotional state acknowledged before they are able to move on to understanding. My evidence for this is the fact that you keep having to restate your reasoning. You have to do that because people aren't really listening to you, and they aren't listening to you (probably) because you haven't yet managed to push beyond the emotional portion of the conversation.

Here's what I've learned to do in these situations (bolstered by several years of working in tech support for cell phones, an arena where a lot of the time people will call in angry because they don't understand how to use some aspect of their phone and need to be talked down from the anger before they can move on).

  1. Apologize a lot. Look, just because you say "I'm sorry" to someone doesn't mean that you actually think that you caused their poor situation. We say "I'm sorry" to people who have a cold, for example. It's just commiseration and sympathy, not blame.

  2. Acknowledge their feelings. "I understand that this new process takes a good bit of your time where formerly someone in our department just did this without you having to worry about it." One thing that sometimes comes out of this part of the conversation is that you were actually incorrect about why they feel put out. Maybe they don't care about the extra time, but the old supervisor used to do something else that they don't know how to do. Maybe (if this is, for instance, setting up some security issue) an automated process for what you're doing (or part of it) that saves both ends time and creates fewer errors because of less human input.

    But beyond that, simply getting to that point to where you can truthfully say why you understand why the other party is upset is key to getting to the point where you don't have to keep explaining stuff over and over again. Even if there's nothing you can do about the other party's frustration or whatever, just acknowledging that it exists and why helps.

  3. Bridge to business. This part's a bit cheesy, maybe, but it's still helpful. Once you've apologized and acknowledged, explain what you are or can do to help, and then and only then launch into the inner workings. "Hey, I see that you're frustrated that my former boss used to do this process for you and now that we've gone back to making you do it, it's taking time out of your day. I'm sorry for the extra effort. What I can do is walk you through how to do the process (assuming they still need that, of course). I'll also be available to help any time between the hours of 9 and 6 during the week (or whatever)."

    What you're doing there is making a point of getting out of the emotional stage and into the rational / "okay, so what do we do about this" stage of your interaction with the user.

  4. Consider what they're telling you. This may be the most important part in the long run. If you talk to 15 people and 10 are not put out by the extra time but by the fact that they have to fill in the same 10 fields over and over again with the same information, that might just lead you to want to figure out a way to automate that part. And if you can provide them with that value, down the line they are likely to be much more receptive to whatever potential roadblocks you might put in front of them because you've proven that you don't just listen to them but take what they're saying to heart. This is partially the developer in me talking but I strongly believe that every objection is a potential improvement in disguise.

I don't know specifically if you work in your company's IT department or not but I know that IT people tend to be really, really bad at doing the above, and that's a big part of why at so many companies they get the reputation for being kind of jerky. If you can prove to be the exception to this by practicing soft skills, you can go a long, long way.

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How can we convince our users to forget the past days and follow the new policy without so many complaints?

You don't have to, you have the authority, so just make the changes and enforce discipline if need be. Complaints won't last long as people get used to the new policy's. You can't stop people grumbling, so don't worry about it.

If it gets out of hand refer it to your superior to deal with.

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Decide if this is really a battle worth fighting for. Are you just a little bent out of shape for "having" to do this? Is it really that unreasonable?

One good strategy in sales is to make the customer think you're giving them some sort of special deal that is making you go around the "rules" to do them a favor. It makes people feel good. Maybe offer to do this, but after a certain time, you won't be able to if it takes too much time.

There are going to be some major unreasonable demands in the future and if customers feel like you never want to help them based on this experience, they're going to hold this against you even more.

Relationships are built over time, but people tend to over emphasize first impressions. The old saying, you only get to make one.

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    Well so far you haven't made a very good case for why they need to stop with us other than an authoritarian, its bad and stop it. Perhaps your users feel the same way. Did you involve them in the deign of the new system or ask for their comments on the problems they could see with it before you implemented? If not, of course they are resisting, you have made their work harder and for no good reason that they can see. – HLGEM Feb 29 '16 at 18:11
  • I meant the OP not you. – HLGEM Mar 1 '16 at 21:20

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