After the Webinar: Dealing with the Dark Side. Q&A with Dr. Kimberly Miller

Webinar presenter Dr. Kimberly Miller answered a number of your questions after her presentation, "Dealing with the Dark Side: How to Handle Your Most Difficult Employees." Here are some of her responses.


Audience Question: How do you approach the things you are talking about in larger organizations? When people who are seeing the behaviors or subordinates but without the authority or the power where you have managers who are relatively autonomous, and thus supervision is often at arms' length and the people impacted are the subordinates? Any advice? 

Dr. Kimberly Miller: Yes, I think that's a challenge, for sure, and I think what's important to do is figure out a way to document the experiences the subordinates are having. And also figure out, if you can't go to your immediate supervisor, or you can't go to your supervisor's supervisor, figure out where can you go. Can you go to HR? Is there another supervisor who you trust for advice? Is there somebody else in a different role in the organization? Because I think number one, even with subordinates, y'all have to document what you're experiencing and what you're seeing. Because if you go to anybody and say, "So and so is a jerk", "so and so ignores us", or "I hear a lot of people saying blah-blah-blah", people don't really know what to do with that.

But if you can document this person did this on this day, seven of us have experienced this person doing this, and it's written down, and it's documented, and then if y'all spoken up and said something, that's documented. I think that carries a lot more weight, and again, maybe go to HR. Maybe consult with another supervisor, find somebody else you can trust about advice. Because organizations are very different, and sadly, politics in organizations are very different, and you need to figure out how you want to navigate things, what's the safest way for you to navigate things, to try to get your voice heard, about what the other issue is.

Now, the second thing that I will recommend because I don't know your specific situation or politics, or if the person in question is ever going to be held accountable for changing. The next thing you have to figure out how you can cope with whatever the reality is you're living with, that you're facing. That's really sad, because I'd love to say, that will absolutely be fixed one day, and you won't have to suffer anymore with whatever you're suffering with. But the reality is some people get away with murder, and they're untouchable, for whatever reason. So, you have to figure out yourself how can I cope with this? Or if it's really bad, how can I get out? How can I move to another part of the organization? Because ultimately, even though you might document stuff, talk to people trying to get a voice, the reality is you might not be heard, and it comes down to your own mental health, can you cope with it? Or do you need to find some way out for yourself? 


Audience Question: You talked about documenting the successes, the conversations, etc. Just like what you talked about just a few seconds ago that people have, either with their employees or with colleagues, coworkers, supervisors, etc. The documentation concept. What systems or methods have you seen managers or employees have in place that makes that easy, that doesn't make it just a random, haphazard thing. Any recommendations? 

Dr. Kimberly Miller: Yes, so, some people, and again I think it depends on your level of comfort with technology, the resources your organizations have, some people keep Word documents, some people keep an Excel spreadsheet, if you have a small enough organization you might have an employee spreadsheet that supervisors have access to. That if you have a ten-person department, all supervisors can get in and see all employees, and what's going on.

But I can also tell you about a fantastic tool. It's called Guardian Tracking.  It is really created to be a positive employee development software program. Now, it's really catching people doing things right, it's a great way to coach employees, put notes in there, all these kind of stuff. But of course, you can put in, coaching plans, and where people struggle and etc. They also have very transparent pricing. You go to their website under ‘Pricing’ and you put in how many employees you have in your organization it goes boom, this is what it's going to cost. So, if you have a smaller, mid-sized agency it super, super, affordable. If you have a larger agency obviously, with thousands and thousands of employees it's going to be more expensive. But I still think it's a great tool. 

I'll tell you a couple of other features about it. One of the other good things is that this encourages everyone to manage the culture. It encourages everyone in all directions to call out people's positive behavior, and track success. Why? Because we all become more of what we focus on. So, in this software, if I'm a line-level employee, and I appreciate another employee or supervisor, I can go in and say "Hey, my coworker Charlie did this, and this other supervisor Susan did this." Now those comments go to those people's immediate supervisors but assuming there's nothing inappropriate about them, what happens is those supervisors click Approve or whatever and it goes to the employee. So, the employee immediately gets recognition, "Hey there's something about you in Guardian Tracking," and then they can go look and see the positive stuff getting recognized about them. Now obviously some part of that is about coaching and helping people improve but that is a great tool to help manage culture, focus more on positivity, you can also export data from that to an evaluation, you can also use that program and upload your current evaluation in it. 

The other great thing about the program is if supervision changes, and let's say I'm your supervisor right now, but in a month, Chris's going to be your supervisor for the next three years, all you have to do is change permissions, and your whole history leaves me, and goes directly to Chris. So, this is another way to track an employee over time, it's another way you could use the information Guardian Tracking in a promotional process. That shows that character over time. So that might be a product a lot of you might want to look into, I think it's a great, great, resource.


Audience Question: From the dispatch world, our new hires don't go through a psych eval, only just a background check. Can you please repeat how to write interview questions to judge character in addition to what we already ask? And without making the interview end up taking more than forty-five minutes. 

Dr. Kimberly Miller: So, I can give you a couple examples, and whoever that person is, you can see up on the screen my email and my cellphone, if you want, reach out to me, and I can spend a little bit more time talking to you specifically. But really quickly for everybody on the call. I would recommend that dispatchers go through a psych eval. I think that's absolutely critical. Number two, if you don't want to do that, or can't do that for some reason and you just want to create character-based questions — first thing you have to ask yourself, what is the character that's most important for us, for our dispatchers? And how do we want to vet that out? Whether that's being a team player, being curious, being compassionate, whatever that is. You have to get clear on what you're specifically looking for. Then, I don't usually recommend doing more than seven or eight questions, but I can give you an example of a great character-based question that you can use. Again, you could use it for hire or promotion. 

Here it is: How would a person, who likes you least, describe you? That's an example of a character-based question, because what am I looking for? First of all, honesty. Because some people go, "Frickin everybody likes me." Well, they're a big liar. Every one of us, has at least one human that doesn't like us. So, when people tell you, "Oh, everybody likes me," they're lying to you. You shouldn't be hiring them. Number two, you're looking at, well, how honest are they going to be? Like, if they say well, "These people don't like me because when they ask me for the truth, and I tell them and they can't handle it." Well, that's what blaming the other people for not liking you, instead of owning that maybe your issue is you beating them in the face with the truth. And if you would deliver a more compassionate, honest, message, maybe people would listen more, right? So, that is great question, first is a truth test. Number one it's a self-reflection test. Number two, it looks at, are they going to tell you the worst stuff about themselves? 

And finally, it's another subtle test, because here's another trick about asking questions. Never, ever, ever, ever ask people what they learned. Because what I've learned, over time, is that when people learn, they will always tell you. When they haven't learned, but then you ask, “What did you learn?”,  they make up a bunch of BS that's not true to sound good. So, what I've learned when I asked that question over time, is when people are honest about why people don't like them, and they actually done something to change themselves to improve, they always tell you. They say, "You know, I used to be in my way with my honesty and I used to beat people up and alienate people when I tell them the truth. But you know what I've learned over time is that that's my crap. That's my issue. So, I've had to learn how to send better messages. I've had to learn, how to message the truth with kindness and compassion so people will listen. So absolutely there are people who don't like me still in the world. But that list is getting shorter and shorter because I've learned how to get out on my own way and learn how to send better messages that more people are receptive to hearing." And when people say stuff like that, they are totally a five. Because I didn't ask, and they were humble enough to tell me they struggle, and that they still struggle, but they've also told me how they fixed themselves. And that's an example of a good character-based question. 


Audience Question: Kimberly, can you talk again about how to deal with a dark side employee, and others in the organization who just excuse the behavior, saying that it's "Oh, just the way they are", "that has been allowed or has been allowed by the management in the past." Can you touch on that a little bit again? 

Dr. Kimberly Miller: Sure. So, I would challenge people on that. I would say, well, what's this person's motivation to change if we said Crazy Bobby's crazy and he's lazy and entitled, as long as we say, "Well, that's how he is," is he ever going to change? Now, the people you're talking to, have any insight, they're going to go "Of course not, why would he change?" Okay, so then, I would ask them, "Are we then saying that that is an acceptable standard in our organization?", of course, they're going to say no. Well then, I would say if that's not an acceptable standard, why are we saying that's just how he is, or how she is. We can't do anything about it. Because as soon as you excuse behavior, you sanction it. And they need to understand by excusing behavior they are basically saying that it's okay. So, they need to do one of two things. They either need to stop complaining about it, and accept that being Crazy Bobby is fine, or they need to say, "You know what, it isn't fine. And we're going to do something about it." Because people, going back to that Darth Vader slide, people do what you allow. Period.

And I would challenge organizations on that, and say, "Well that's how so-and-so is." And I say, "Do you like it?" They go, "Of course I don't like it", "But then what are you going to do about it? "Well I don't know, that's how they are." Well, do you the same thing about children? Cause I know most of you are probably parents on this call. Do you say, or do you believe, that your children get to dictate how they behave in the world? Well, of course, all of you as parents are going to go, "No. I'm a parent, I dictate how my child operates in the world," right? "I tell my child the character they're going to show. I tell my child to say yes ma'am and yes sir. I tell my child they're going to be polite, they're not going to be a bully, they're going to be considerate of other people. I tell my child they're going to be kind even if they don't feel like it.

The whole thing about parenting when you think about it, especially when you have young kids, we make the little humans in the world do a whole bunch of stuff they never want to do. We make them go to bed, we make them eat their vegetables, we make them do their homework. And they don't want to do it, they don't want to do it, they don't want to do it, but we make them. Because right we have to as a parent, and it makes them a good human. Same rules apply in organizations. Same role as a supervisor. You have to make your people do stuff they don't normally want to do. You have to make them get along with people. You have to make them be humble and forgiving. You go to make them stay engaged when they don't want to. You have to make them show good character in a meeting when they want to bite somebody's head off. As soon as you stop, and I don't mean to belittle anybody by saying this, when you stop "parenting" as a supervisor, and you say, "I supervise adults, they can do whatever they want." Then you know what, adults are going to revert to that two-year-old behavior.

And many of you as supervisors know that you feel more like a preschool teacher than a supervisor. And that comes down to, as supervisors, and as leaders of organizations, we have to make people do stuff they don't want to normally do. Which means you don't get to show up and be whoever you are. We as the organization set the rules, set the values, set the expectations. Same things parents do in houses. You set the rules, you set the values, you set the expectations. You wouldn't let your kids run the house. Don't let your employees run the organization.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of "Dealing with the Dark Side: How to Handle Your Most Difficult Employees."




Additional Resources
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