Monday, July 25, 2016

Finding Common Ground

Once upon a time, way back in my call center days as as supervisor I was moved from one of the call center teams to another group that was known to be a group of malcontents and trouble makers by reputation.  As you can imagine I was concerned about the change and not really looking forward to the transition.

Mary Sellers was the name of one of my new agents.  She was no nonsense and not very happy about the change in leadership for her group.  I had been warned about her by a few of the other supervisors that she was "difficult" to talk to and work with or around.  I spent the first two weeks being fairly calm and letting things run the way they had been for the past year or so before getting more involved and make a few changes to how the group operated.

One of the few items that had never been in place was a monthly review for each employee by the supervisor.  So I set about rectifying that issue and doing an initial face to face with each of the team members.  It was a get to know you kind of thing, and an opportunity to explain who I am and how I operate.  I took it as chance to hear from each agent about what they liked and didn't like about the current work environment.

It all went well and I learned a great deal about my agents, until it was Mary's turn.  I could tell when she walked into the room that she was already on the defensive and didn't want to be there.  I attempted to put her at ease and get her talking about family and friends, but that failed as well.  So I dived right into the what to expect part of my face to face.  That quickly devolved into a heated discussion about behavior of the team and her in particular.

To this day I am still not sure how our conversation turned to a yelling match.  I realized that I had failed in my attempt to bridge the gap with this employee  and quite possibly created an enemy that would fight me every step of the way.  I calmed down and attempted to salvage the situation by explaining that we were on the same side and should work together.  She crossed her arms and simply stated "Are we done here!"  to which I nodded that we were finished.

She left the room and I was bewildered on what had just happened and how it had gotten so bad so fast.  The next day she was radio silent and kept to herself during her shift.  It was the next day she came to me and said "I think your right.  We should work together."  It as simple as that.  She quickly became my star agent.  I learned that she had forceful personality and the respect of the others on the team.  It wasn't long until we really were working as team and she became the driving force behind my leadership and kept all the wayward agents inline.  I hate to call anyone an enforcer but if any of my employees had earned the title it would be Mary Sellers.

I attended her wedding a couple of years later, had her and her husband over for dinner at my house  a few times, and to this day we stay in touch.  What started off with a rocky start turned into a good friend that I know I can count on, no matter what.