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How to prevent a tar-and-feathering

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in Leaders & Managers,Workplace Communication

Your team wants to get rid of Martin. Through an emissary, team members say they want you to reassign him to another group.

If the team is angry with Martin, talk with the point man and then the entire team, minus Martin. After you find out what happened and give team members a chance to vent, try to guide them toward taking Martin back into the fold.

If you see a serious problem—say, Martin flatly disagrees with the team’s decisions every, single time—don’t ignore it. Deal with the problem openly and move on.

If team members haven’t given him a chance, talk with them to figure out why. Teams often block out others just when they’re starting to form an identity. Bring their concerns to Martin, and make sure they listen to his reply. Then, have them meet. If he and the team can learn to speak openly and listen to each other, problem solved.

If not, Martin actually may not fit in.

If he isn’t fitting in, don’t abandon hope. Just don’t jump to conclusions before he and the team meet to talk about it at least once. Facing personality issues is hard and emotional work.

For instance, the team may find Martin “weird,” and he may in fact be weird, but his weirdness could be a sign of high creativity. With everybody pulling together, Martin might be able to find his niche on the team.

On the other hand, Martin may decide to leave the group, or you may reassign him. Either way, try to find him a better match. And none of you should feel that he or the team has failed.

Tip: Unlike people with performance or integrity problems, team members who don’t “fit” haven’t done anything wrong. Don’t punish them or rush to purge them. Diversity in all its forms really does strengthen a team.

— Adapted from Team Leader’s Problem Solver, Clay Carr, Prentice Hall.

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