Dear Aunty B,
I work for a not for profit organisation which supports a cause that I am passionate about.
We just got a new senior manager and already the culture is changing. She is a very aloof person who seems to pick on people, particularly her PA, who is fantastic and was much loved by her old boss.
But nothing she does seems good enough and the new boss seems to just find faults with her. It is as if she is developing an ‘us and them club’, with people she likes in the ‘us’ club and those she doesn’t like (who tend to be down the power chain) in the ‘them’ club.
We have always had a really good culture with a lot of people working much harder than their salaries, as we believe so much in what we do. But everyone is questioning her style and getting grumpy.
What do I do? Our CEO is based in another city and would do something if he knew what was happening.
I am in the “us” camp and don’t want to be put in the “them” camp by taking her on, but we have a great culture and it’s not good for the organisation if it changes.
There is a great leadership saying in business: Talk to the head, not the arse.
Is there any way you can have a confidential talk to the CEO? Very tricky to do and I would only suggest it because you sound like a sensible, professional worker with the organisation’s best interests at heart, not a divisive trouble maker who can’t see the big picture.
The way you would pitch this professional concern for the new manager: You are looking for suggestions to help the new manager settle in better. You keep any judgement, bitching, dobbing out of it.
An astute CEO would dig further, although you don’t want to be so obtuse that the CEO doesn’t get the point.
At ground level, you need to support the hardworking staff who are being picked on. A useful tactic is to offer assistance when they are singled out. That way the manager knows there are a group of people all pulling in the same direction.
Your one hope is that the manager will soon feel more secure and see that she is surrounded by great staff that wish her well. This may change her behaviour. Worst case is you have ended up with a highly political, divisive manager.
How can you tell? Look at her history. She probably has a record of moving to a new position/organisation every one or two years.
What do you do then? Come up with a plan to outlast her, support your colleagues and work alongside her to make sure you help her and your colleagues to deliver results.
Find out what she wants delivered, how, when and why. Make extra sure you deliver on promises and stand up for yourself but avoid confrontation. And comfort yourself with this: a good culture can survive people like this. They usually don’t last long anywhere.
Your Aunty B