In the case of the request for a second meeting between Shirley and Jeannie, with Kelly supervising, I believe it is quite necessary to do this, especially after the events of the first meeting. Despite the fact that it would be quite tense to go through for all parties involved, it would foster a much better work relationship between everybody if another meeting was attempted, this time with a greater attempt at fostering amity with Shirley and Jeannie. Obviously, there are some incredible discrepancies between how Shirley should be doing her job and how Jeannie feels she should be doing her job, which is a cause of friction between them. Add in the fact that both of them are big personalities, and you have clashing interactions and resentment to deal with.
The first meeting was handled rather poorly on all counts. Kelly had miscommunicated to both Shirley and Jeannie on strategies and implications that ended up bringing about further animosity between them. Kelly had told Jeannie not to hold back, or at least that Shirley would be expecting these types of comments due to the complaints that had surfaced in the past. Conversely, Kelly told Shirley to simply accept the concerns that Jeannie was going to present without rebuttal or reply, or any other way in which to defend herself. As a result, Jeannie vented her frustrations directly at Shirley in an impassioned outburst, which Shirley felt helpless to defend herself against due to Kelly’s command to just let Jeannie say her piece. Because Jeannie was under the impression that these were all flaws that Shirley was well aware of and had gotten in trouble for in the past, she did not sugarcoat any of her frustrations. Likewise, because Shirley was told that she should just hear out Jeannie’s perspective, she was left feeling as though the meeting was a “verbal bashing session,” and as such, had no recourse but to take it personally, particularly because the outburst was so large and passionate. While it is reasonable to assume that this outcome is not what Kelly was expecting or planning when she oversaw that meeting or made the comments to both parties beforehand about their instructions, she should have intervened at some point and took a more supervisory role in the meeting, enabling real, effective communication to occur.
However, there is hope for the two parties to reconcile, as I believe that the second meeting should work, especially since Kelly is invited once again to the meeting between Shirley and Jeannie. Despite the unfortunate outcome of the first meeting, I agree with Bobby’s assessment that a second meeting, with Kelly and Shirley using better methods of communication, can yield much better results and lead to a sufficiently positive resolution. There are two problem areas that could be addressed in the meeting that can greatly help in alleviating the tension between the two employees and helping to bring about a pleasant outcome.
The first is Shirley’s attitude problems. From the description, it is clear that Shirley is not aware of her actions, or at least how her actions and words are being perceived by others. She simply feels as though she is communicating what she wants to have happen with her employees, though it is often aggressive and unfriendly to others. It is entirely possible that Shirley simply doesn’t know that she is coming across this way – something that is supported by her utter surprise at Jeannie’s outburst and claims of unfriendliness and poor work attitude. This is known as selective attention. However, given her past of being written up for bad communication skills and managing poorly, it is still a shock to her to hear these words. It is implied that some of this short-temperedness and overzealousness comes from having a poor background, which still does not excuse having that kind of behavior in the office.
The second is Jeannie’s lack of restraint or tact. It is obvious that the situation with Shirley has become extremely tense, and as a result Jeannie is very short-tempered, frustrated and temperamental. However, she did not use the first meeting to her best advantage, and instead of attempting to help Shirley do her job better and communicate with her how she could be more helpful and less confrontational, she took advantage of the opportunity to tell off her boss, which is a far more toxic and ineffective strategy. While it may have felt good for Jeannie to finally say what she has been thinking to Shirley’s face, it does not help anyone in the long run. Now, Shirley knows that Jeannie hates her, and Jeannie’s situation has still not changed for the better.
Again, both of these strategies could have been avoided, had Kelly handled the situation with greater care. She should have allowed Shirley to respond, within reason, to the opinions that Jeannie held, allowing her to say her piece before letting Shirley provide a rebuttal. At the same time, she should have shown restraint and not given Jeannie what amounted to inside information about the meeting, planting the idea in her head that Shirley had heard all of these things before and it was not sticking. Whether or not this assertion was true, it was not Kelly’s place to say that, especially to one party before the meeting. It unduly informed Jeannie’s strategy, which ended up being overly harsh and unhelpful to the situation.
There are several factors that may have contributed to Jeannie’s utter frustration with Shirley. According to the primary or recency effects, our overall opinion on someone is based in great part on both our first impression and our most recent impression of someone. When we first meet a person, we size them up, and how they act or look at that time both consciously and unconsciously informs our opinion about that person. What’s more, it is incredibly difficult to shake that first impression, even if it turns out to be inaccurate.
There could have also been a fundamental attribution error between Shirley and Jeannie, Jeannie thinking to an extent that, because Shirley seems to have such a bad attitude, she is also a bad manager by comparison. Taking these dispositional attributions too far contributes to the fundamental attribution error, and it becomes a substantial problem for the employee/boss relationship.
From the situation, it is clear that Jeannie feels she can do a better job than Shirley, which falls in with affective commitment, and contributes to an overall lack of respect for her superior. This is not helped by her strategy of management by objectives (MBO) – she has often been given a long leash by management because she gets the job done, despite the fact that she may not follow standard procedure to do it. This can contribute to a “loose cannon” attitude around the office, as Jeannie may or may not feel that the rules do not apply to her. This would give her a greater incentive or justification to speak up to her bosses, including Shirley. Also, she may feel that she does not receive as many rewards and incentives as Shirley, despite the fact she feels she works harder – this is known as equity theory. Jeannie feels as though Shirley turns away customers or fails projects due to her overly aggressive behavior, which expresses a very negative valence in her opinion of Shirley.
In the second meeting, there are quite a few things that could be done to improve relations between the two managers, and possibly even get the issue resolved. To begin with, the overall attitude of the meeting needs to change. It cannot be a do-over of the previous meeting, as the events of that meeting have already happened. Therefore, Shirley already knows that Jeannie has a passionate dislike for her and her management style, and Jeannie is aware that Shirley knows about her objections to Shirley. Kelly, as a result, has a much harder job than before, as there is an increased level of animosity built up from the beginning of this second meeting. The tension present in the next meeting will be palpable, as all of Jeannie’s feelings are made clear; at the same time, Jeannie is not entirely sure how Shirley received her comments, as she did not reply whatsoever during the course of the first meeting. However, there is still a chance to set things right and allow this meeting to go over successfully, producing an amicable resolution to this employee conflict.
Kelly must also thoroughly evaluate a few vital aspects of the first meeting before trying again, so she can better understand how communication was performed in said meeting. First off, was the message that Jeannie sent the same thing as the message that Shirley heard? From the outcome of that first meeting, it is clear that it was not, as Shirley merely took Jeannie’s words as a verbal attack on her, especially given the severity of the outburst. It is entirely possible that Shirley interpreted her feelings as Jeannie simply not liking her, and so may not translate anything Jeannie said into things to work on in her own management style.
Next, she must discern if there was a positive attitude or social link towards Shirley by Jeannie. Clearly, no positive attitude was to be found; Jeannie displayed clear frustration and anger toward Shirley, and no social link exists between the two outside the workplace, leaving out any extracurricular interaction. Obviously, issues of power exist; the entire conflict comes from Shirley’s apparent inadequacy in Jeannie’s eyes when it comes to the job of being her superior, which is the cause of Jeannie’s frustration. Physical reception would have been easy, as hearing would have been no problem in a quiet, enclosed office. While the medium was a perfect choice for resolution of the conflict (a supervised face-to-face meeting), the content was all wrong. Instead of a helpful dialogue between two people, with a third, impartial party moderating, Jeannie vented her frustrations at Shirley
The communication style of the meeting itself needs to change. Instead of letting Jeannie exert aggressive communication and incivility towards Shirley, Kelly needs to make sure that the situation stays as calm as possible. Kelly should not allow raised voices or judgment statements; instead, Jeannie must present her objections in less confrontational ways, such as emotional statements. Rather than pointing fingers at Shirley, Jeannie must say how Shirley’s actions make her feel. That will be a far more accurate and less damning way to convey the objections that Jeannie has toward Shirley, and the ideas will still come across, but not in a way that makes Shirley uncomfortable. Emotional management is important in jobs in this field, and as a result, Jeannie must be made to show that, despite personal reservations toward a work colleague, she should not necessarily express them so unconstructively.
Kelly can work with Jeannie and Shirley to make the conversation less one-sided. For starters, Shirley should have the ability to speak and refute or explain the things that Jeannie is talking about, but in a way that prevents the both of them from raising their voices or emotions. Kelly should allow them to speak one at a time, and go one issue at a time. This will allow Shirley to absorb what Jeannie is saying more effectively, as well as allow herself to speak up and tell Jeannie why she does it the way she does. Alternatively, if it is a point that she concedes on, she can acknowledge the validity of Jeannie’s criticism. This way, Jeannie will also be more satisfied, as she feels her opinions are being heard.
Both parties must be made self-aware of their actions during this meeting and in the workplace. A successful second meeting would end with Shirley realizing the effects her aggressive behavior are having around the office, and Jeannie will understand that she must work well with others, including her superiors. Jeannie’s relative autonomy leads her to believe that she can do the job by herself, and so one goal of the meeting would be to show her that communication and teamwork are essential for her role in the company. At the same time, Shirley must learn to communicate her needs more patiently to her customers and coworkers, and be more willing to accept criticism, even if it is unconstructive.
During the second meeting, attending behavior must be recognized by everyone involved. One problem with the first meeting was likely that Jeannie did not notice Shirley’s clear discomfort, as she was extremely occupied with expressing her opinion passionately. Therefore, she did not slow down or stop, as she would not have noticed that her behavior was affecting Shirley quite negatively, bringing her almost to tears. By slowing down the meeting and allowing each party to talk one at a time, Kelly would allow more time and opportunity to pick up on nonverbal cues, facial expressions, and the like that can give both Shirley and Jeannie a better understanding of one another.
Framing statements and suggestions as questions, rather than judgments, allow the other party to be able to meet you halfway in the conversation. Therefore, instead of Jeannie telling Shirley what she needs to be doing better, Kelly might direct her to frame her idea in the form of a suggestion. This can allow Shirley to come to the same decision, or at least more seriously weigh the validity of the suggestion, without feeling as though she is being told what to do by someone under her management. This can bring about a greater feeling of cooperation and synergy, as they are no longer competing for “the right idea.” This is also known as active listening and non-directive listening, permitting the person receiving the suggestion to also own the solution.
When there has been a sufficient amount of communication between Shirley and Jeannie regarding Jeannie’s concerns, Kelly should make it a point to summarize and paraphrase the points that are being made. This will allow an outside voice to put the opinions and statements into perspective, so that both parties will have a collective understanding of what has been said. As a result, there will be no ultimate confusion as to the topics and conclusions that have been brought up and addressed.
One thing that Kelly needs to keep in mind when considering this second meeting is whether or not Shirley and Jeannie are communicating well together, as there are many unhelpful communication responses that they could resort to. Kelly needs to make sure that neither party resorts to clichés, rambling, or jargon, or any other type of misleading and inaccurate information in order to make her point. Points must be made concisely and without embellishment, and their arguments and counterarguments must be delivered with sufficient evidence – this can be difficult to do, given the emotional nature of Jeannie’s and Shirley’s conflict, but this method can help show them that they need sufficient and practical reasons for their animosity, or else it is unjustified and hurts productivity.
Finally, Kelly should make sure that a resolution is reached, summarizing the problems that Jeannie has towards Shirley, and ensuring that steps are being taken that will make both parties happy. Kelly must ensure that she is the one to establish the resolution, as it should not be up to the parties that are in dispute – as their superior, her ultimate decision as to the steps to take next must be definitive and final. This will ensure complete and total understanding of what is required by both Shirley and Jeannie as they resolve their conflict.
The first meeting between Shirley and Jeannie was an unmitigated disaster – the only thing it resulted in was shared animosity between two coworkers, with no real resolution. A lack of communication skills and overall ignorance of how to properly handle the situation made an already tense scenario worse. However, Kelly, using these techniques and strategies, in addition to understanding what went wrong the first time, should be able to find a way to permit these two coworkers to improve their work relationship, and by extension their productivity and communication around the office.