Troublemaker or problem solver? You decide.
Jeremy, paper mill supervisor for a paper mill in Manitoba, Canada, told Session 6B of the Leadership Development Lab (LDL):
"My ‘pearl’ is a machine tender on paper machine #2. This individual is known by everyone to have a negative attitude and a very aggressive, abrasive personality. Many people he works with on the paper machines and maintenance crews have told me to just try and avoid him. They have told me with great conviction that he is always rude, mean, and confrontational.
A couple of weeks ago when things were relatively quiet, I mustered up the courage to follow through on my Turbo pearl commitment. I went into the control room to talk to him. I started by giving him praise for an important safety issue he had brought up in the production meeting the previous day. This was an issue that he seemed to feel was simply being ignored. It became apparent that I needed to look after it. I gave him feedback on what we had done so far, the progress we were making on his concern, and the next steps that were planned. I could see that he was very happy to know that we were taking his concerns seriously. Then, to my delighted surprise, we proceeded to have the first pleasant conversation I ever had with him. Since then, he has called me a couple of times to bring up other concerns and is generally a far more willing, contributing member of our team. The lesson I learned from this experience is that most
employees, even those who have a reputation for being negative troublemakers, have a lot of positive suggestions and ideas that can make their jobs more effective, even the ones who come off as grouchy all the time. If our associates get the impression that no one cares, they become cynical. When this happens, they become unwilling to share their ideas. They often act out and are soon labeled as nothing more than a troublemaker.
The action I call you to take is to close the communication loop and give your employees feedback and praise for coming up with any and all ideas for improvement. Put forth a little extra effort to work with employees who have negative attitudes and show them the progress that is being made within their department.
The benefit you will gain is you will have a much stronger team who works together effectively, and you will get rid of the behaviors that come with constant negativity that can destroy your team."
And what is the rest of the story? My update as of yesterday is that this mill is running at an average of seven tons per day over their best production in the last five decades. The combined efforts of all the management staff, frontline leads and supervisors providing supportive coaching and training has created significant increases to the bottom line.