I was just out of college and working as a manager in a distribution center and heard about a problem brewing in the warehouse.
I called the two staff members that were engaged in the conflict into a conference room to try and understand what was going on. That’s when Sue pointed her finger and blurted out HE PINCHED ME! and I thought to myself, seriously? I’d been working with Ben for a year and he did not seem like the kind of person that would go around pinching people. And besides, isn't this the kind of thing you deal with in Kindergarten or maybe Jr. High. Surely, I am not going to have to recite the “keep your hands to yourself” speech. Please, aren’t you two in your 40’s and aren't you immigrates from the same country. I’m sure we can all get along, right?
Back to the conversation:
Ben was so flustered that he could hardly speak. So I asked Sue and Ben to take a turn and walk me through the chain of events that led up to this altercation. When Sue shared her story it was all about how hard she worked, the sheer volume of orders that she would pack each day. She poked fun at how slow Ben worked and said that it was unfair that he would hurt her because he was jealous.
This only frustrated Ben more and with his heavy accent it was all I could do to figure out what actually happened.
Here is what happened:
Ben and Sue had come from the same country but from different classes. So while there was a common language and it appeared from the surface that these two got along fine, there were deeper cultural issues that intensified the situation.
Sue had figured out a way to cherry pick most of the easy orders and shift the larger more difficult orders over to Ben’s workload. So as they packed orders, it appeared that Sue was doing more work because her stack of empty totes was always higher than Ben’s. This was a fact that she proudly pointed out to the team, leads, supervisors and anyone else who would listen. Ben internalized his frustration and it finally came out one day when Sue came too close to him and in frustration and anger he reached out and pinched her.
I ended up giving Ben a formal warning regarding the pinching. He was reminded of the proper outlet to report issues as they arise. Sue was instructed not to cherry pick orders and a lead was assigned to go back over the process and procedures with her. Sue left that next year. Ben stayed on for 20 years. He never pinched anyone again.
Even though most professional workers are more sophisticated in how they interact with each other there is still virtual “pinching” going on every day. According to Gallup, 87% of the global workforce is disengaged at work. I am sure any leader could think of a number of frustrating staff related issues that while not exactly the same have the same underlying issues.
Having worked with hundreds of leaders over the years I have observed 8 things that great teams have in common.
Let me ask you a few questions:
Does your team genuinely enjoy working together?
Does everyone know exactly what they are expected to do each day?
Are you getting the absolute best from your team every day?
Have you developed your team to the point that you can take a week off without having to worry about a thing?
If you answered no to any of the above then I’d like to invite you to schedule a chat with me. This is an advice only (no sales/pressure) session to help you identify specific ways to improve your teams performance.
Dwight Grant is a seasoned businessman with over 30 years of leadership experience. He lives in CO where he enjoys whitewater rafting, mountain biking and spending time with family.