Reason 4

20121022_172143They’re Just a Different Forum for the Boss to Tell You What to do and Why

Surprisingly, this isn’t necessarily bad. If your boss is honest about the fact that a team is needed to do something and then outlines fairly clearly what is to be done, it can actually be pretty positive. You’ll probably get sick of this if it happens continually, but once in a while it’s a good way to help a team be successful.

On the other hand, if your boss is a jerk, it doesn’t take long to generate a good hatred for the team.  Everyone resents being treated like slaves in order to do some menial task which is below the dignity of the boss.  Of course, if your boss is a jerk you’re probably doing menial tasks with or without the team so that’s not the real issue. The real issue is that you’re now stuck on a team that is supposed to accomplish something and no one really wants to be there. Short of quitting or finding devious (and probably illegal) ways of having your boss eliminated, there is no permanent solution to this problem. You just have to make the best of things and in this way strive to improve things over time.

Making the best of things starts with getting your boss to be absolutely clear (relatively clear might be best case though) as to what is expected of the team. Be aware that the boss may well have hidden agendas or other reasons for creating the team. Try not to allow these to interfere with what YOU are trying to accomplish. So check with the boss on a regular basis to make sure you are on track. If you wait until you’ve completed the task, you may find that the target changed when you weren’t looking and you will get roundly chastised, then sent off to ‘do it right’ this time. But if you sincerely try to get a clear picture from the start and honestly check progress on a regular basis things may get better. Sure, you’re playing games a bit, but it speeds up the process which is good for teams in this situation. It’s healthy to vent once in a while too but don’t go overboard. Get the work done quickly and maybe you can spend the extra time searching out a good headhunter or a new work address.

You may also find that this reason to hate work teams takes some time to recognize. The biggest red flag is a lack of clarity from the boss about what is required of the TEAM.  Don’t be surprised if there are a couple of cycles of the target changing for no good reason before you catch on to what may be going on.

Oh, if you are one of the bosses who creates teams for a hidden agenda, at least be honest about it. Of course if you are one of these bosses you probably don’t recognize it. Just in case, take a look around you; if lots of teams in your area aren’t accomplishing much, you’re likely the problem, not them. Take a big dose of humility, ask the teams for help and listen, really listen to what they have to say, if they have the courage to say it. And good luck. You will need it.

Discussion and comment points for this post:

  1. This is not an uncommon problem. What are some of the hidden agendas you have seen for bosses to create teams to deal with these agendas?
  2. If a team is stuck in this reason and needs to vent, how can that venting be contained so it actually adds value and does not spill over into creating a generalized negative atmosphere?
  3. Have you ever had to coach a boss that creates this problem?  How did you coach them?

2 Responses

  1. Tom appreciate you highlighting the piece of the hidden agenda from the boss and my experience has been they really don’t recognize that they are the issue. It is easy to say have a courageous conversation with your boss however unless they are really open this rarely happens due to power and control issues. In order to have courageous conversations they often need skill development in this area as well as some intentionality as to what this looks like. Once you create a culture where they feel safe to have these conversations is when the magic on a team can happen. Often it is trust issues that hold people back.

    Venting or clearing if done in a productive manner can be very helpful. If people do not have the means to vent they often remain stuck and have a tough time moving ahead. Again, by being able to articulate they just need to vent and do not want anything done with it. They may just need to get it off their chest and have someone really listen to them without judging or solving the problem.

    Yes, I have had the opportunity to coach a few bosses that create this problem. Once you have designed the coaching relationship it is helpful to start to hold up the mirror and start looking at the impact that he or she is creating. Often it is unintentional and they need tools and skill development to do things differently. Not always, however in some circumstances a 360 can be helpful to focus in on specific areas of development and always remembering to leverage the strengths.

  2. Wendy, another great comment! I was interested in your points about ‘courageous’ conversations and think you are very right that these types of conversations can be highly problematic due to power and control dynamics that are primarily not seen or understood by the person in power. Unfortunately there is a fair bit of content out there that focuses on having these types of conversations and if you do them ‘right’, you will end up with a good result. Most of this content does not deal with the very real existence of the power issues you note.

    This can easily end up making things worse in that the person trying to make things better can feel like a failure since the courageous conversation did not work. In some ways it is like the ‘blaming the victim’ dynamic that occurs in various other scenarios and not just teams.

    This is why, with this Reason the focus is on trying to make things more effective by first dealing with the non power issues since it can make a difference for the entire team. It is not effective to deal with a jerk boss through the team as the issue is always bigger and more complicated than the effect he or she is having on the team.

    As you note, often outside information and support is needed.

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