Q: I am the executive director of a small community mental health center. Recently, the county department of social services contracted with us to provide counseling to children in foster care. Shortly after beginning this collaboration, we were blindsided by the negative organizational culture at DSS, which is replete with blaming, bullying and downright meanness.
Although the children appear to be benefiting from our services, the partnership with DSS has not been a positive experience. Since we specialize in mental health, I would like to suggest that we conduct an organizational intervention to address their management problems. Would this be a wise move?
A: Sadly, organizations designed to help others don't always do a good job of managing their own interpersonal issues. Although your desire to assist is commendable, doing so could put your contract at risk, because managers in a dysfunctional agency are likely to view your well-intentioned suggestions as intrusive meddling.
Every organizational culture is heavily influenced by the values and traits of upper management. Since toxic leaders are incapable of seeing their contribution to the problem, interventions in these organizations are usually doomed to fail. If the negativity at DSS originates at the top, a leadership change may be the only real solution.
Instead of trying to fix the entire agency, concentrate on building positive relationships with the individuals involved in your collaboration. Coach your staff on how to cope with any destructive attitudes they may encounter. But if the DSS culture ever begins to infect your own organization, you may want to reconsider this contract.
Q: Two years ago, I applied for a promotion that I did not get. I was told by upper management that they wanted me to work in other areas and that a title change and pay increase would follow. Since then, I have been given much more responsibility, but my salary and title remain the same.
Our company has suffered some financial difficulties, so perhaps that explains the delay. Nevertheless, I feel that I deserve what I was promised. How should I handle this?
A: Even if management had a valid reason for reneging, you still should have received an explanation. It's quite possible, however, that this commitment has simply been forgotten. Unfortunately, managers sometimes mention future possibilities, then fail to follow through, leaving employees to wonder what happened.
Instead of continuing to wait resentfully for benefits that may never arrive, take the initiative to restart this conversation. First, create a chart showing how your job has changed, then use it to remind your boss of the previous promises.
For example: "Two years ago, when my responsibilities began to increase, senior management indicated that I would eventually receive a new title and a raise. I would like to find out when I might expect that to happen."
Hopefully, your inquiry will spur some immediate action. But if your boss cites recent financial reverses as an obstacle, ask when it would be appropriate to revisit this request, then mark that date on your calendar.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of "Secrets to Winning at Office Politics." Send in questions and get free coaching tips at http://www.yourofficecoach.com.