I’d been in aquatics for what I
considered to be a long time and had just taken a job at a great
new facility. Having been the new person at more than one place and
having tried a variety of introduction tactics, I was confident
that this time I would get it right. This time I would have the
lifeguard staff trained, happy and willing to work with me in no
time flat. This time would be perfect.
Once I’d met the staff and introduced myself, I set up
head lifeguard and manager meetings. I was planning to meet with
each employee individually and test out the newest version of my
interview questions, then get feedback. I thought all of these
things would solidify my place in their hearts as the best boss
How wrong I was.
Shortly after my in-service training, in which I spoke at length
about how I wanted the best aquatics staff and how important it was
to lead by example, I was approached by one of my senior staffer
members. He said I was coming on too strong and needed to adjust my
tone. We talked at length about what he thought I should do. I
asked for his support in my efforts and promised to try to tone it
down a bit. Still confident, I forged ahead.
Next, I met in smaller groups with head lifeguards and managers.
We talked about how things were going at the six-week mark. We then
reviewed my new hiring process. I asked for help to evaluate it and
said I’d be taking them through the process as a dry run.
When the meeting was over, the same employee came to me stating
that the entire staff now felt threatened by me.
Now the wind had left my sails. How could they be feeling
threatened? Who was this “everyone”? I was heartbroken.
I decided to meet with everyone one on one, so I could get to the
bottom of it.
And so I met with each and every one of my 60-plus staff
members. We talked about how they wanted to be managed, what their
goals were and what they’d like to see me do for them and the
department. It didn’t seem as if people were threatened by
me. In fact, many of them said I was doing a much better job than
the last person. At this point I had not heard one word from my
vocal employee about the general feeling from the group. I was sure
everything was good.
Then I got the e-mail: “Would you please make some time to
talk to me? This is very important.” I met with this employee
and was told that everyone is going to quit because I wasn’t
listening. He told me that everyone thought I’d basically
instituted the Spanish Inquisition. I thanked the employee for his
opinion and quietly slunk into a hole.
I had tried so hard to do everything right. Where had I gone
wrong? Would I ever be able to recover from this horrible thing
I’d done to my staff?
The answer I found was “yes.” It wasn’t
“everyone” who disliked my style and methods. It ended
up being only three lifeguards, and they were friends. Eventually,
they quit. I hired some new people and things went along
Some of the older staff members grew to like me; those who
didn’t, left. But, in the end, I was just fine.