“So, Julia, you are in this conversation, looking for common ground. What if the team member isn’t giving you anything to work with?”
“Impossible,” Julia responded. “Unless, they are stiff arming me.”
Julia was a new manager on a team with nine men and two women. I was anticipating some pushback from some of the vets. This was not going to be easy.
“What do you mean, stiff arming?” I asked
“Sometimes, egos come in to play. They think they have to act tough in front of their co-workers, be uncooperative with the new boss. Maybe if they stiff arm me long enough, I will get fired. But it’s only a pretense. It’s just a game. I have to draw them out of the game and into the conversation.”
“What does that sound like?” I pushed.
“I usually start with fact-based questions. I stay away from opinions and judgments in the beginning. In these fact-based questions, I am looking to build up the tiniest bit of trust. It’s pretty simple, really. I ask a question. They respond. Nothing bad happens. I ask another question. They respond. Nothing bad happens. And the questions are easy
Tell me about your job? What do you do? Where do you get the materials? What machines do you use? On a good day, how many units do you produce?
“After a few minutes, the pretense goes away,” Julia continued. “I have drawn them into the conversation by asking them fact-based questions. It may not be a deep conversation, but at least they are out of the ego game.”