Ask The Expert: Frema Engel
Nine months ago I was hired as manager to direct a team of 12 in a hospital accounting department. I replaced a manager who had been there for 15 years. The employees are unionized, ranging in age from 28–59 and with a seniority range from 4–24 years. I am busy putting out fires — dealing with absenteeism, conflicts and hurt feelings, bullying behaviour, poor work ethic, etc. We need to modernize our practices and improve our efficiency, but every time I try to implement even small changes I am met with resistance. I’m always stressed and have to come in on weekends and work late so that I can finish work and meet my deadlines. My own manager is too busy to help me deal with this. What can I do?
Before you can achieve your business goals, you will have to get your group working as a team. (While this question was asked by a manager working in a hospital, it could easily have been asked by any manager.) Unresolved conflicts and interpersonal issues are getting in the way of this team’s productivity. There is also the underlying question of how the group reacts to you as the manager. People generally do not like change that is not of their choice, and part of their resistance may come from your introducing new expectations, processes, and functions. The unspoken question for people resistant to change is: “how do I protect myself, maintain the status quo and make my life easier?”