How do I improve the atmosphere at a branch in my new role as regional manager?
Q About two months ago I took a new job as regional manager at a bookmaking chain. However, it's clear that previous management has left a sour taste with one branch in particular. The atmosphere seems a bit hostile as a result, and I am struggling to come up with ideas as to how to fix this. Have you any advice on what I should do to make a happier workplace without neglecting my other branches?
A As we move towards zero unemployment, employers need to continuously look at what they are doing to attract and retain staff. It is widely agreed that the success of a business is not solely due to the capabilities of its leader, but the strength of the overall team and their ability to work towards a common goal.
It appears that in one of your branches, the team members have lost direction and - in turn - focus.
These two factors can lead to a hostile environment and it is extremely important to sort this as soon as possible. As you are new to the role, your understanding of the organisation and historical management may be limited, so it is important to get feedback from the people on the ground.
How you do this is key as if approached incorrectly you could end up with staff just paying lip service and not actually telling you the truth.
Some of the key steps you can take to develop engagement in your hostile branch as well as across the other branches are:
1 Root and branch: Do not focus solely on the branch with the issues, but do a root-and-branch review of your regional offices. The key is not to enter into this process focusing on what is wrong, but to also look at what is right.
It is important to do this across the office network as you will be able to assess issues and positives from all other offices and ensure that you do not single out one office.
2 Office meetings: It might not be an option to get all the team members into one room for a 'town hall' meeting, so a visit to each of the offices with a focus on review may suit your current business structure.
3 Peer discussion group: Take a defined leader from the group and give them the responsibility of organising a group meeting to discuss in confidence the issues that have arisen in the organisation.
One of the benefits of the peer discussion is that they may feel they can be more open and honest and can feed the information back confidentially from the team as a group, preventing any one member from being singled out.
4 Compile and take records: No matter what your opinion on an issue is, if a person who raises an issue feels strongly enough to highlight it, then it is important to recognise their input. Recognition may be one of the reasons for the hostile environment.
5 Feedback: You will be unable to give feedback on each and every suggestion, but it is important to make sure you highlight what you feel were the best suggestions across the offices and present back to the teams in each branch.
6 Implement: A plan without implementation will always just be a plan.
Failing to implement some of the key suggestions from the plan itself can be as detrimental as doing nothing at all.
Team members will look negatively and deem the exercise as a waste of time and could further compound the negative feeling.
7 Repeat: Things change, and some ideas just do not work.
It is important to ensure that the team see an open door in relation to suggestions and ideas, but having an annual root-and-branch review can ensure you continue to hear the voice of the employee and can prevent a negative sentiment from setting in.
The key to success is removing perception on both sides. You may have a perception of what the issue is and what is causing it and the team may have a perception of management.
Listen to your team and while all suggestions may not be implementable in your business, the buy-in from staff into your investment in them can pay dividends - not only for the hostile branch, but your overall network.
David Fitzgibbon is regional manager of the Limerick Office at Collins McNicholas Recruitment and HR Services Group, which has offices in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Sligo, Athlone and Limerick.
Sunday Indo Business