Pass the Aggressive

ambitionSent: January 13, 10:30 a.m.
From: Alisson
To: Brenda, CEO & Founder
Alisson here from accounting. At the last staff meeting, you said that if anyone had any questions they wanted to discuss with you directly, you’d make yourself available. Well, I do have some questions. I was wondering if you’d be willing to have lunch with me sometime.

Alisson


Sent: January 20, 1:30 a.m.
From: Alisson
To: Brenda, CEO & Founder
Subject: 1:1? Hi, Brenda.

Thank you for lunch! It was so great. You’re the best boss ever, even though you’re my boss’s boss’s boss. Ha! It was so interesting learning more about the company strategy. Thanks again!

Alisson


Sent: February 8, 9:00 a.m.
From: Alisson
To: Brenda, CEO & Founder
Subject: 1:1? Hi, Brenda.

Hi. Me again. Was wondering if you were free for coffee next week? I’d love to share some feedback I have about the new break room decor.

Alisson


Sent: March 5, 8:00 a.m.
From: Alisson
To: Brenda, CEO & Founder
Subject: 1:1? Hi, Brenda.

I haven’t heard back from you. I also wanted to talk to you about my performance review that Tom gave me this morning. I don’t think it went very well, which was a surprise. I thought you and I were on the same page. Can you talk to him?

Alisson


Congratulations! You’ve got an employee stalker! A sure sign of your success is when you’ve got low-level employees beating down your door in a sad attempt to bond with you. This is almost always—no, it IS always—an attempt to bypass their direct relationship with their manager to get you to play favorites so that when they are finally called out by their own manager, they can come whining to you. But you can work this to your advantage! Play right along with the stalker; they will tell you every last glorious bit of juicy gossip from within the ranks, deliver unto you both good and bad news before you were meant to hear it, and most importantly sell out your most senior leaders by subverting their positions on the ole’ org chart and mainlining directly into your already blurry view of your team.

It will start most innocently. You’ll meet for lunch. Then she’ll ask you for coffee a few times a week. It will be tough to say no because she was quick to achieve a level of familiarity that makes it seem perfectly normal for her to just show up in your doorway unannounced. She’ll pounce on you in the break room, the elevator, maybe even the bathroom. She’ll prod you for information, drop breadcrumbs of her own gossip that will keep you up at night. Before you know it, she will be giving you body language and eye contact signals at group meetings and presentations—as if the two of you have “something special.”

All the while, because you are too busy getting sucked into her drama, you don’t even realize she’s on a performance-improvement fast track with her manager. Unless she starts performing her core duties, she’s going to be terminated. And all of this has been her strategy for avoiding that inevitable event.

LET’S GET REAL

The next thing you know, you wake up one day to this:

GLASSDOOR ANONYMOUS REVIEW

The ABC Company CEO Rating: 0 out of 5

The ABC Company, specifically because of their no-talent and lazy CEO, is the worst place to work on the planet. I would rather break rocks in a nuclear test site than set foot in that godforsaken hellhole. The pay is crap, the hours are crap, it’s a swampy cesspool of gossip, and the do-nothing CEO is worthless. The company has no strategy, and I’m pretty sure they are out of money also. Every single employee hates it there. It’s a revolving door of misery. Not only are their CEO, senior management, and culture in general complete disasters, their product is a sham. It’s nothing more than a straight rip-off of the competition’s, and they’ll ask you to do shady things to try to get even more competitive intel. If you have any dignity or integrity, stay away!

Why the abuse? Because your stalker was finally fired by her manager, and this is exactly how she’s going to repay you directly for not preventing it.

Listen, unless you want to manage a team of cat herders in the wild, Wild West, if you want to develop solid leaders, you have to be the shining example on the hill of order, protocol, and respect for the org chart. Most employees aren’t stalkers or subversive people like Alisson, but they are out there. Unless you are consistent about how you interact with your staff, they will find a way to bore into your resolve and then come screaming back in a most public way.

There is a way for you to be friendly—even well-liked— without subverting the org chart and allowing these fissures to crack the system. If you feel that an employee or team member is subverting the org chart, direct them back to their manager or hold a group meeting with the three of you. Forming a triad at the first sight of this kind of activity is a great way to fortify your hierarchy.

Remember, one of our most important jobs as a leader is to develop new and better leaders. Every employee—even the Alissons of the world—has the potential to be a leader or influencer, but most don’t really understand the value and purpose of a well-crafted, disciplined chain of command. Work with your HR department if you have one, and if not, work regularly with your senior management team to communicate protocol, design, and adhere to RACI methodologies, and stop breaches of org chart protocol in their tracks before you too are victimized or sucked in by one of the many Crazy Alissons!

To purchase a copy of How (NOT) to Build a Great Team click here.

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