Aleksej is a tall guy in his early 30s, very reserved and yet with a noticeable presence. It is not uncommon for people to feel intimidated by it. For five years he has been responsible for the product and technical development at a fintech start-up in a leading position. Aleksey would probably have been on the management board for a long time – if it weren’t for constant difficulties in dealing with him.
The problem: Aleksej is significantly smarter than the rest of the management team, but lets the other department heads feel that too. He works a lot, is always well prepared and usually has the solution before the others understand the problem. His own team members admire him for this – but at management level he is increasingly annoying his colleagues.
One day the situation escalated. Sasha, who has only been with the company for a few months, burst her collar when Aleksej made another derogatory comment in her direction. She got up and explained that she couldn’t stand the arrogant manner of her colleague any longer. Addressing the two managing directors, she added that she would soon no longer be part of the team if they “can’t get Aleksey under control”.
I came in to help with this conflict. The executives confessed that they understood Sasha’s reaction all too well. You yourself have “somehow dulled” over the years and did not know how to approach the subject. Aleksej is too important to the company to lose in a confrontation.
The tip of the iceberg
In the following conversations we found out together that Aleksej had never really made it to the management team. He always had the feeling that he was only accepted because of his performance, but not personally. He worked hard for the company, but was increasingly hurt and disappointed because he felt no recognition. He vented his frustration with increasingly aggressive comments.
It was important for everyone to recognize that Sasha had reacted on behalf of the team with her outburst and rightly pointed out that the two managing directors had tolerated Aleksej’s kind for too long. After that, the problem was quickly resolved. Aleksey confessed to his colleagues how much he wanted to be part of the team – and apologized very sincerely for his toxic comments.
This story clearly shows the difference between symptom and cause: what looks like an acute conflict between two team members is in reality the effect of a problem that began years ago – and which luckily could be vanished into thin air with a few honest discussions.
Anne Weitzdörfer As a consultant and coach, she has accompanied companies and executives for many years. Here she writes every month on topics from the professional world.