Personnel changes can sometimes create tension and upset the smooth flow of work, especially when someone from the outside is hired into a senior position. Helping the parties involved develop a greater awareness of the impact of their communication makes for a smoother transition for all.

Challenge

An integrated design firm with a 100+ year history hired a senior-level designer from outside the practice, and the new person was met with resistance from existing employees.

The company president was concerned that a senior person he had brought from another firm was not assimilating well into her new environment and new culture. He wanted to offer her support through this transition.

Hiring from the outside meant that people who had been with the firm for many years were passed over for the job. In addition, another senior designer had worked with the new hire at a different firm and was adamant that she was not the right person for this position. The animosity between the two was rubbing off on other team members and making everyone tense.

Insight

Communication from both sides of the conflict needed to change in order for the situation to improve.

It was clear that the employees were all very intelligent people who cared a great deal about one another’s and the firm’s success. Although the intent was good, the lack of communication skills between key people made it difficult for the senior designer to be entirely accepted in her new role.

It was challenging to get the people surrounding the new hire to see their role in the negative interactions, and some needed to receive their own counseling on getting along. For example, the president had listened to each person’s complaints separately but had missed that he had become more of a wedge than a connector by trying to fix things.

Action

Everyone involved is working towards more effective communication and building better relationships.

We met with five of the employees and the new senior designer to design a personalized coaching program. We helped the new hire realize how her actions were contributing to the negative interactions and how her pre-conceived ideas about how things should be done were getting in the way of her being accepted as a leader in the new firm. We focused on her listening skills as a way for her to better understand what people needed from her to ensure everyone succeeded.

She not only became happier in her role but more effective. Her interactions with her leadership team, peers, and team members improved, and progress was made with the one individual that was so opposed to her. The bottom line is they were building a better foundation together – and had become more effective communicators.