Pushed to Breaking

Topic: Group aggression
Industry: Remanufactured components
Location: South Central U.S.

Tom has been the leadperson in a group of 14 men for many years. He was asked to be the group’s supervisor and after much consideration, agreed. Immediately the group turned on him and began challenging every decision he made. They argued with his direction. They put-up road blocks. They confronted him and gave him attitude any time he had to assign work. They made his life miserable. After many weeks of this struggle, Tom told his wife “tomorrow I’m resigning from this job.” Before work he met with his manager and informed him of his decision. The boss encouraged him to hang tough a bit longer, knowing what was about to happen. Tom called his group together for the morning “tool box” meeting but before he could resign, one of the men said “we need to say something to you.” “I’m sorry for how I’ve treated you,” the first man said. “I am sorry for causing you so much trouble, ” the next man said. Each of the 14 men individually apologized for their behaviors. Immediately, the performance of the group became the best in the plant and the trouble ended. So, the question is, why did these men behave so badly toward someone they knew, and a nice guy at that? Is it our animal kingdom ways or are people just fickle? Why was is necessary for the group to break Tom? So are the mysteries of supervising people. At least the group became civil and apologized in the end. Take heed if you supervise…groups can turn on you in an instant and demonstrate very ugly behaviors.

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