Sometimes, you may have a team member who is bullying or difficult to work with. What should you do in this situation, especially, when that person is your top performer?
Let’s look at a case example. Names and details have been replaced to preserve confidentiality.
Teresa, CEO of Beta Learning Center, has seven direct reports. Teresa works closely with her direct reports.
Eight months ago, the team went through a transition where Manuel was promoted to the Program Director. Although Manuel has been with the company for five years, he has never worked directly with the leadership team.
Now, that Manuel is interacting with each of the team members, the number of complaints has increased considerably. It seems that everyone, except Ava, is having problems working with Manuel. People say that he is rude, shames, defends, and attacks during meetings.
Teresa does not want to let Manuel go as he is her top performer. What should Teresa do?
The worst thing Teresa can do is to ignore the problem. The second worst thing is to issue Manuel a personal improvement plan (PIP).
Disruptive behaviors do not occur in isolation, they occur in relationships with others. Issuing Manuel a PIP would not change his behavior long-term. Teresa must look at the connections between Manuel and other team members.
The Emotional Organogram is a map that helps us to identify these connections – the stressors and harmony in each relationship. The map gives us a 10,000-foot view with clear indications of stressors and harmony:
- Solid green lines represent harmony
- Purple dashes represent distant and poor
- Red dashes represent discord and conflict
- Red railroad represents distrust
Looking at the Emotional Organogram above for Teresa’s team, we can see that there are several red lines connecting with Manuel:
- Teresa and Manuel experience distrust
- Sophia and Manuel experience distrust, discord, and conflict
- Ben and Manuel experience discord and conflict
- Jim and Manuel experience discord and conflict
- Mia and Manuel experience distant and poor
- Charlotte and Manuel experience distant and poor
Clearly, it is easy to label Manuel as the “problem employee,” but Manuel is just a symptom of the team dysfunction. In fact, in my interview, I learned that before Manuel, the team was having a similar problem with another employee. Thus, even if Manuel leaves, it won’t be too long when the team falls into the same pattern and the Emotional Organogram will end looking the same way as it looks now. This type of pattern exists in many organizations. Often, management is trying to address the symptom rather than the root of the problem.
Conflict is the inflammation.
The virus is emotional disconnection.
Emotional disconnection for a group of mammals who seek connection is a danger cue for the brain and causes all kinds of relationship stressors. Organizations that experience similar situations need to address the connection, not the symptom.
The Emotional Connection process or EmC shifts the focus from a single-person problem to the team re-connection. By using the EmC process, team members start to learn how to stop the negative cycle of conflict and create a more positive and effective way to interact with each other.
The EmC process consists of three stages:
In stage one, we put a cap on the disconnection and help team members to understand the negative pattern that takes over their relationship. In this stage, we establish psychological safety and align team members against the cycle, not each other. This is very empowering for team members.
In stage two, we don’t just contain the negative cycle, we help create a positive pattern where team members start to work more cohesively together. They are able to share concerns in a way that helps others to support them, they can articulate what they need in a way that pulls the team closer, and they can actively nurture the relationship with bonding conversations through emotional accessibility and responsiveness.
John Bowlby, the founder of the Attachment Theory, said that emotional accessibility and responsiveness create trust, openness, and secure bonding.
In stage three, we integrate the emotional connection into their daily interactions so that team members can nurture their relationships and strengthen the bond within the team, increasing trust, transparency, and productivity.
In our case example, we worked with Teresa and Manuel to fix their connection first which took eight weeks. Once the connection between Teresa and Manuel was repaired, all other connections were a lot quicker to fix as team members felt a lot more positive in working together.
The end result is that when team members become more connected, they are able to thrive and grow, both personally and professionally. Through the EmC process, the team became productive again.
“The emotional connection helped me to slow down and get centered before responding to others. The ROI on this training is exponentially vast because the people I interact with – bosses, peers, direct reports, clients, family members – all experience the benefits from me knowing the process. As a leader, I think this is an invaluable gift we can give to ourselves and to those who surround us.” – Irakli (Rocky) Bandzeladze, Executive Vice President, Banking
If you are experiencing workplace conflicts or having difficulty working with your team, don’t look for someone to blame or start issuing them a personal improvement plan. Instead, take your team through the Emotional Connection process so that they be productive again.
EmC Online Courses are now available on our EmC Leaders.