Have you ever witnessed the following scenario play out in a contract cleaning company, either among the custodial teams or at the executive level?

The call went out that the company was looking for a few more custodial workers. One of the company’s supervisors recommended a friend of his, and if hired, he offered to train him. The friend was hired and was very appreciative of the job. The supervisor trained him, and very soon, he was considered one of the best custodial workers on the team.

A few months later, the supervisor noticed that his friend was cozying up with the area manager. Then he saw that his friend was doing special jobs for the area manager, some of which the supervisor typically would handle.

When the supervisor went on vacation, the area manager called the team together to discuss some issues. At the meeting, the friend took the lead, became the supervisor “in-absentee,” so to speak, and worked with the other custodial workers to address the issues presented by the area manager. In time, the team was not sure who was in charge, the supervisor they had before, or the supervisor’s friend.   

Situations like this are disruptive and do not foster strong teams. Further, the more time it takes to identify and resolve the situation, the more likely it can result in dysfunction among team members and distrust between the supervisor and his friend. 

So how can this be addressed? The supervisor must handle the situation, in fact, higher management would expect him to handle it.  The first step is do not take anything personal. If things get personal, than the supervisor has failed.

Then, the supervisor should take a closer look at the situation. Is he the only one seeing this, or are the other custodial workers seeing it as well?

Is there something he can do to change this dynamic? Possibly calling another meeting to discuss the issues presented by the area manager will help clear the air, so everyone knows who is in charge. If this does not work, he may need to meet with his friend and discuss the situation privately. 

In the meeting, stick to the facts. The supervisor should let his friend know he is making his job harder, and it is not healthy for the team. If that does not work, he may need to stand-up and be firm about the situation. In the long-run, situations like this can impact the entire company.  

Dysfunctional teams can result in poor workmanship and unhappy customers.  Worse yet, some times customers get involved in the situation.  When the customer takes sides, problems can escalate. That’s why we said these situations must be rectified quickly for all involved, including the customer.

Ron Segura is president of Segura Associates. His company works with building managers as well as large and small contractors, helping them build their brands and streamline business operations. This helps reduce costs and allows them to operate more profitably. He can be reached at seguraassociates@msn.com