I've inherited a dysfunctional team!


I have recently been appointed supervisor of a small team in a retail travel agency. The previous supervisor had swept many issues under the carpet for a long time such as some quite serious written complaints regarding staff being inexperienced, impolite and making some serious mistakes regarding travel arrangements.

To make matters worse, one of the members of my new team is feeling resentful towards me because he has worked for the company for 15 years and was expecting to be promoted into my role.

Other team members have become very demotivated and there is really only one member taking on majority of the workload which has led her to making some serious mistakes due to her trying to get everything done as efficiently as possible.

I am thinking of organising a meeting in which I can formally introduce myself as the new supervisor and try to build rapport with the team. As well as introducing new policies and procedures which will hopefully introduce some structure, I would like to encourage communication between the team as it seems it is seriously lacking.

I am also thinking of slowly beginning to delegate some jobs to my senior staff member who was unhappy about missing out on the supervisor role.

I would really appreciate any feedback about my situation.

Sarah, Melbourne

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Charles Helliwell's Answer:

Well Sarah, this sounds like a reasonable plan to me, perhaps with a couple of modifications.

Yes, you've inherited a team where the previous incumbent hid many of the team's deficiencies to put a gloss on their tenure as the supervisor. This is more common practice than perhaps you might expect and it's particularly noticeable amongst those looking for a quick promotion or an escape from a hopeless position.

Introducing yourself to the team, as their new supervisor is a great start. However, that's all this is; it's a start. Please don't put all your cards on the table at that meeting. Firstly, use the forum to enable the team to express their opinions and viewpoints on the department; what works well and what doesn't and then allow them to make suggestions on where improvements might be made.

In recognising that they all have opinions and encouraging them to share these, you will find it much easier to present this back to them at a follow up meeting in which you have incorporated your ideas. That way, it looks much more like a collaborative effort than an imposed solution, and you'll have the team, or at least those who wish to remain as part of the team, working with you as opposed to against you.

Once this is done and you have established a consensus of agreement from your team, implement your plan and watch to see who emerges from it as potential team leaders.

Don't assume that the team member with fifteen years of service, who felt that they should have been given your job, will emerge as a leader. They may, or may not. That depends on them and how engaged and supportive they choose to be of a plan in which you will all have a share.


About our Expert

Charles Helliwell
Charles Helliwell

For almost 20 years, Charles Helliwell has been enjoying a lifestyle and making a living as a behavioural and relationship mentor specialising in the personal and professional development of individuals and teams in the workplace.