Many of the people who contact me for help with a stressful workplace are dealing with a new supervisor who is causing chaos in the employee’s formerly peaceful workplace. Why does a new supervisor feel the need to upset everything and everyone?
To look good.
That’s right, to look good by fixing a big mess. And don’t think the supervisor will take responsibility for causing the big mess. The employees who “can’t accept new ideas” will get the blame.
New supervisors are under a lot pressure to look good fast; they need to demonstrate that they deserved to be hired or promoted; they desperately want to show their own boss that he/she “made the right decision” in choosing who got the open management spot.
A Wall Street Journal article touches on this scenario (the WSJ piece describes everyone who creates problems to solve as an “employee,” and does not describe the ‘new supervisor’ phenomenon I so frequently see).
The article described a plant manager at a Louisiana-based chemical company who spread layoff rumors, then later informed his employees that HE had saved everyone from being laid off.
In another case, a woman claimed she had “fixed” broken working relationships between other members of her work group. A consultant discovered that this woman actually caused the problems, by telling two of co-workers each that the other one could not be trusted.
New supervisors often fancy themselves as a “turn around specialist” whose mission is to fix a bunch of problems — real or imagined — and fix them fast. One executive coach in the WSJ article spoke of turnaround specialists “confessing boredom when things turn quiet.” His conclusion? “If there’s no mess, those people can be very dangerous.” The dynamic is the same for new supervisors who envision their new role to be a kind of junior “turnaround specialist.”
A final type of sabotage is displayed by the boss who knows that he or she should delegate work, but can’t stand to give anyone else control. What happens is the boss will undermine their own workers, and then rush in to fix the “problem.” In the boss’s mind, nothing can be accomplished without them, and the boss desperately wants everyone else to agree.
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