Here’s a story I thought I’d share with you today.
At least, just say, “Hi.”
One of my clients, Greta, began our first session seeking help with a “difficult” employee. Greta was a delightful person. She was warm and friendly, beloved by all. She had a loyal staff who worked hard for her. However, she couldn’t seem to reach one employee. Will was in a second career after having served in the Marines Corps, where he retired as a Master Sergeant. He transitioned his career to quality control and had been working in this area for six years at this company. However, while the quality of his work was good, Will had a reputation of resisting training and not being a team player.
Management had moved Will from department to department in an attempt to find a supervisor who could “manage” him. Greta was his newest supervisor.
After hearing her concerns, I asked Greta if she had met with Will after his reassignment. She admitted that she hadn’t and that she was uncomfortable arranging such a meeting. Will intimated her. His work was acceptable, so she simply let him work on assigned projects.
“He always seems grumpy, not friendly at all,” she said. “He won’t even acknowledge me to say good morning. He stays to himself and, really, no one wants to talk to him. I am very uncomfortable trying to meet with him.”
I was wondering what was so scary about this man. ”Has he verbally or physically hurt you or someone else? Does he seem aggressive in some way? Look scary to you? What is it that intimidates you about him?”
”He just isn’t friendly. I don’t like approaching someone who acts like he doesn’t like me.”
“Have you even said ‘hello’ to him?” I asked.
Somewhat astounded, I affirmed “Nothing? No acknowledgement of him just because he seems unfriendly?”
“No, I haven’t met with him” she replied sheepishly.
“Assignment one” I said. “Say hello, make eye contact and smile warmly when you greet him. There is nothing further you need to do. I’ll see you in a week.” Greta seemed a little disappointed that I hadn’t come up with some miracle cure for this “difficult” employee, but she said that she would do as I instructed.
When I met with Greta the following week, she could hardly contain herself. Will had responded well to the first greeting. It was just a responsive nod, but it encouraged Greta. Each day she would greet Will and over the course of the week their interaction grew. By Friday, they were spending some time each morning chatting about the upcoming day and the work load ahead. Will began to share some information about his personal life – a little about his family and their move to the area.
Greta was shocked. She had never imagined that Will would respond to her, much less chat about various topics. When I met with her again, she was embarrassed to admit that her preconceived ideas about Will had prevented her from even being friendly.
I prompted Greta to arrange a meeting with Will where training needs, professional development and goals would be discussed. Within three weeks, Will and Greta had a productive and interactive working relationship. His prior supervisors were happy to see that Will had “finally improved.”
Had Will “finally improved” – or did something else happen?