Managers, Don’t Argue With Your Staff!




Front-line managers frequently argue with their staff at businesses all over the world. I frequently overhear leaders and managers lamenting, “I’m weary of babysitting my staff.” Why won’t my team do this? I wish my colleagues would simply (insert constructive habit here)!” or, in a more stern tone, “These people shouldn’t be making what they do for the subpar work they do!”  Employees frequently utter phrases like “I’m sick of working for this *&@#%!” and “My boss never listens to me!”

You deserve to manage stress-free and enjoy the presence and support of your direct reports without having to fight for compliance and accountability. I, myself, used to struggle with some of these same thoughts. Through some hard lessons, and a little coaching, I came to some realizations that have changed the way I lead forever. In this article, I would like to share these coaching insights with you to help you better lead your team.

Even if you are a master of self-control and manage to contain all this rage without any sort of passive aggression, this frustration will undoubtedly cause you to reach your maximum B.S. limit, and you will eventually snap! If you’re a manager or leader struggling with your entire team, or part of your team, or perhaps you just know someone else who could use some help in this area, please read on.

You may feel a temporary high as you assert your dominance, but this buzz is quickly lost when the employee you lost your cool with continues the undesirable behavior even after your argument with them! This results in a “Groundhog Day” type effect where you repeat the undesirable behavior over and over again.

How Can Leaders Communicate to Achieve the Behavioral Change They Want?

You must first have a basic understanding of your personnel.

They aim to win your favor and have good motives.

All people want to appear confident and proficient in their work; screwing up and being yelled at does not benefit them. When an employee makes a mistake, doesn’t follow a process, or isn’t performing how you want, they are not necessarily targeting you in an attempt to be insubordinate. Before you snap, consider the likelihood that your employees genuinely care about pleasing you.

If you’re a parent raising a young child, you expect that your child will mess something up. It’s a given that your kid is going to color on the walls in crayon. He may find a pair of scissors and decide to give the dog a haircut. If you’re really lucky, your kid might even put a wet roll of toilet paper into the microwave for 10 minutes to dry out! Regardless of these childhood atrocities, you still love your kid unconditionally, right? You don’t assume they are evil and out to get you, then send them away to boarding school! Perhaps they were trying to draw a pretty picture on the wall just for you. Maybe your child thought the dog looked hot because he was panting and needed a haircut to cool off. Did you consider that he felt bad for dropping the T.P. in the toilet bowl, and wanted to dry it off so you wouldn’t need to buy more? (You can tell my parents had a rough time raising me! That being said, the intentions were good, and the motives were pure. Love your employees like you love your kids, with unconditional care and love, and expect mistakes. I truly believe that they have the best of intentions and mean well. You will harbor a lot less anger this way. Just be there to guide them and help them learn from their errors so they don’t keep “shaving the dog” their entire career.

They aren’t acting the way you want them to for some reason.

This is a costly assumption. In order to positively change an employee’s behavior, the leader must discover exactly WHAT limiting belief or “SCAM” is preventing them from acting. In the book, “Coaching Salespeople Into Sales Champions,” Keith Rosen, Master Certified Coach (MCC), defines a “SCAM” as a Story, Con, Assumption, or Mindsel. What is standing in your way? “What is keeping you from…?” You will learn through these exploration questions that “laziness” or “insubordination” are not the true issues. Once you’ve identified their true limiting belief, you need to show them what might be possible if they adopted a different outlook or tried a different strategy.

I’ve been preaching this for years: “Call your old customers and ask for referrals to sell more and meet your goals!”  But no matter how often or how strongly I commanded, the sales team would only occasionally take any action. Introducing private coaching.

The first step is to enroll Susan in the behavioral change by saying, “Susan, what I want for you is to bring in as many referrals as possible, that way you need not rely on the market, economy, and floor traffic for your entire career. I know you enjoy working with customers who are fun and easy to work with. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful and satisfying to spend time with clients who already respect and appreciate you?”

Why don’t you call your satisfied customers for recommendations, Susan?”

“Well, I don’t have that many to call, and when I do, I’m afraid they’ll be annoyed that I’m bothering them,” Susan said. I don’t want to irritate my clients.

Since Mary had over 300 customers in her sales database, she made up the lie that she had no one to call in order to pull off her SCAM of prospecting for her customers. She had persuaded herself that they would become irritated if she called them.

I said, “I’ve read your fantastic web testimonials from your clients, Susan. “How many of your 300+ customers actually loved dealing with you?”

“Probably at least 250 of them,” she remarked.

“Do you mind if someone you truly enjoy working with calls you?”I inquired.

Susan responded, “I guess not, no, I don’t mind.

How many of your clients have requested that you not call them because you are bothering them, I inquired further.”

I could see Susan was beginning to realize she hadn’t really TRIED to phone them yet, and her assumption was disproving itself as she paused for a moment, “Well, no one’s really told me they were annoyed…”

“What specifically, if anything, might you say to your 250 most content clients that wouldn’t irritate or upset them when you call?”

Then Susan and I worked together to create a wonderful message that she could deliver to her most contented clientele and ask for recommendations. which she has been successfully doing ever since. Susan only needed her SCAM exposed and dealt with in a supportive manner; she wasn’t being lazy or disobedient, nor was she attempting to avoid selling and gaining money. If you endeavor to understand the true causes of behavior rather than making assumptions about people’s laziness or submissiveness, your life as a leader will be much less stressful and much more rewarding.

They might not comprehend what you’re looking for.

It’s not uncommon to have disagreements with team members because there aren’t always clear expectations. I advise you to go over expectations with any applicant three times: once before hiring, once after hiring, and then once every quarter. Additionally, you should modify your goals as circumstances alter, because this is a given. Whose fault is it if a team member acts inappropriately if they are unaware of what you want them to perform as your direct report or what you expect of them? Leaders have said this in a variety of ways: “People cannot live up to expectations they do not know exist.”

We discovered the source of some long-standing resentment that one of my colleagues’ managers, “John,” had with a sales representative, “Bob,” while teaching him. Everything came down to expectations. John believed that Bob consistently fell short of his expectations. It was evident that there was a mismatch between us after we both discussed John’s expectations in length when sitting down with Bob. We anticipated that Bob would appear careless or unconcerned about not accomplishing his goals. However, as soon as he realized he had let us down, Bob became visibly upset. Bob required his manager’s expectations to be reviewed because it had been far too long since they had been. After that, Bob devised a plan to address his deficiencies, and he has since worked diligently to do so. That day, a burden was lifted off the shoulders of my irate manager and team member. Setting clear expectations makes everyone’s job easier and prevents misunderstandings.

After training, it’s possible that their proficiency wasn’t evaluated.

As soon as someone completes a training program, it’s easy to assume they are aware of what they should be doing. We give our staff training, observe them while they go through it, and assume they are fully aware of everything because they didn’t doze off… If only everything were that simple. Have you ever struggled to retain something from training, or do you always pick it up right away? Before letting our staff go free on the job, we must test their proficiency. Simply put, we will learn the hard way if we don’t discover early on that the instruction wasn’t retained. Would you want your family to go across the nation with a pilot who hasn’t undergone proficiency testing? Would you want a heart operation if you only attended one lesson and failed the test? Of course not! Test your team AFTER the training to make sure they retain it or take the fall if they perform poorly.

Before moving to our store, one sales professional named “Steve” spent over a year working at another dealer group’s lot. We felt he knew how to complete the required documentation when delivering a vehicle because he had experience in the auto industry and had worked at one of our stores before. We decided to “test” Steve on his knowledge of delivery paperwork after a very difficult first month of continuous paperwork errors that cost him, the business, and his customers time and money. He didn’t really grasp it because, as we found out, the finance department at the store where he worked handled much of the paperwork prior. Even though Steve had a foundational understanding of what was required—enough to be dangerous—he required training and testing before being let go. We could have avoided a lot of problems if we had first tested his proficiency! Was he ever put to the test? He had to “sell his boss a car” after all, but he wasn’t put to the test on papers. If you want to be sure your staff members are competent in every facet of their job, test them on all of them.

How to avoid becoming furious at first and create long-lasting change.

Let’s be clear about one thing right away: I do not promise that our crew and I will always get along. Additionally, nobody is able to remain composed all the time. I’m not advocating letting them get away with murder either. For any organization to succeed, there needs to be a hierarchy and a boss. Just be aware that we, as leaders,  may be partially to blame for the issue. After all, it is our responsibility as the people in charge to use coaching to assist them in making the necessary corrections in a way that promotes a helpful, constructive environment. The alternative isn’t appealing—it’s a malignant, passive-aggressive climate where a boss frequently snaps due to repeated unpleasant behaviors! This can’t be good for your blood pressure, much less your and your employees’ career satisfaction.

If you’ve been leading in this way, allow me to pose some challenging questions: Has keeping your anger within or continuously yelling at your staff resulted in any beneficial changes? What gains have you noticed as a result of this? Does this increase or decrease trust? Do you prefer a continuous cycle of new employees to replace departing team members or sustainable growth for your team members? Are disagreements with your staff driving you crazy?

There is a very powerful question you should ask yourself before you start yelling and screaming at your team member or saying something rude and unpleasant. Dr. Marshall Goldsmith asks this question in his book “Triggers”: “Am I willing, at this time, to make the investment required, to make a positive difference on this topic?” [blockquote-left]Are you willing, at this time, to make the investment required, to make a positive difference on this topic?[/blockquote-left]Asking this question will help you slow down before responding negatively to an unfavorable situation in your environment. Now that you’ve calmed down, you can help the problem rather than make it worse. The first step in bringing about positive change is having the enthusiasm to participate positively in the conversation. Simply maintain silence while you calm down if you can’t put the effort into it right now.

Holding your team members accountable in a helpful, encouraging manner.

Let’s review the experiences of our coaches. We have a fresh starting point now that we have explored our expectations in detail. In the end, if Bob doesn’t meet the recently conveyed expectations, then leadership follows the “Am I willing…” inquiry, indicated above, before going crazy, and there will be consequences. We won’t be passively aggressive toward Susan if she doesn’t adhere to the prospecting strategy we came up with. By suppressing our annoyance and letting her leave without making follow-up calls, we’ll just end up with the issue we were hoping to avoid. Now that she is seated, we ask her once more, “Now what’s stopping you from calling your customers?”. We will hold an employee accountable if they commit a mistake that a little common sense would have helped them avoid. There is no need to get upset with them or doubt their motives because we will know they did not sow any discord with their error. After Steve has completed his training and been evaluated for his competence, if he still makes mistakes on his paperwork, we will take action.

Theodore Roosevelt once stated, “Speak softly and carry a big stick,” which we will apply in every situation. We will be kind and considerate, and not lose our cool under pressure, but there will be repercussions to hold our team members accountable. Being an accountable manager who uses the “stick” keeps you from losing your cool. As you might have guessed, applying consequences does not allow you to return to yelling. Instead, there should be a succession of concise, direct comments that, depending on the severity, progress to more. In the case of Bob specifically, both parties agreed to repercussions that start with additional hours worked until predetermined standards are satisfied. A monetary fine and a written reprimand would be imposed for subsequent infractions or failure to keep promises. If Susan decides she doesn’t want to take care of her current clients, they will be divided up among other salespeople who are prepared to reach out to them.

Simply communicating to a worker that they have fallen short of your expectations can suffice. If the message is brief or serious, it should be delivered in person. It can be blunt, like, “Bob, you promised last month that you would provide your documentation by the 30th of every month. I still haven’t gotten your documents, and it’s now the fifth. When can I anticipate receiving it? What obstructed things? Do you need my help to make changes to your plan?  This kind of criticism is still cool-headed and respectful, but it makes it plain that the expectation wasn’t met.

You should elevate the message to demand either a clear corrective action within a set deadline or even a warning for termination (or termination in some cases) if an incident occurs again or the seriousness of the failed expectation increases. Just keep in mind that the consequence should always be respectful, and calm, and clearly communicate the expectation and the missed expectation.

Your staff will benefit from it and behave in a way that supports your coordinated efforts. Quit arguing with your team. Put the boxing gloves aside. Take the lead that your team deserves. Have faith in their good intentions and use a coaching approach to leadership. Make a strategy for holding them to your precise, well-expressed expectations. As a consequence, both you and your staff will enjoy a better working atmosphere. Your turnover will decrease as your staff begins to trust you. I wish you and your team the best of luck!






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