Tough Call: Dealing with a micro non-manager

Claiming to be taking care of his clients, a salesperson is micromanaging his colleagues. What would you do?

micro-managerYou’ll never forget your introduction to the lumber business. It was 1990, you’d just earned a B.S. in Business Administration from the nearby state university, and had the opportunity to join a management training program at a regional lumber company. You saw this as a chance to put down roots in a stable, solid industry. Later that year, not one but two big box stores broke ground in the heart of your market area. The national business press proclaimed the death of the independent lumberyard, which had you second-guessing your career choice. After sharing your trepidation with the company owner, she said, “I understand what you’re saying, but there’s more to this business than meets the eye. Let’s see how it plays out.”

Within five years, one of those two big box stores was gone. As it turned out, your builder customers had a strong preference for the service that you and your more traditional competitors offered. Nearly 30 years later, your company’s position in the market is stronger than ever. Personalized service is the reason, and it’s also at the center of your current challenge du jour.

Greg joined the company about 10 years before you, and he’s spent his 40 years establishing, nurturing, and reinforcing relationships with his builder and remodeler customers. He’s not your company’s top performing rep, but his revenues are consistent and his margins are acceptable. His customers are fiercely loyal…but the rest of your staff is at their wit’s end.

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Like any good salesperson, Greg is a strong advocate for his clients within your company. Unfortunately, he often takes it too far. He insists on approving invoices for accuracy before they’re mailed. When the yard guys build a framing package, Greg’s there to supervise, and to make sure each piece of lumber is straight and true. Naturally, this micromanaging from someone who’s not their manager, is not going over well with your team. As a group, they demanded that you talk to Greg and insist that he do his job, and let them do theirs.

“Greg, I appreciate that you want the best for your customers. However, your co-workers are very frustrated— and feel like you’re not trusting them to do their jobs. We’re a team, and it’s important that we each focus on our piece, and trust our teammates. Can I count on you to make this right with them?”

“It’s not that I don’t trust ‘em,” he insists, “it’s just that I’ve worked so hard to get my clients to trust us, that I just want to make sure everything’s right. If my coworkers are so confident that they’re doing their best for my clients, they should be fine with me checking their work. Plus, each time I go looking, I find something wrong. So you should be thanking me…not asking me to stop.”

While it’s great that Greg advocates for his clients, it’s not okay when it angers his coworkers. Effective salespeople are tough to find, but it’s no walk in the park to find qualified candidates for the other positions, either. What would you do?

1. Support Greg. If it’s true that Greg’s finding errors with his co-workers’ work, then he’s right. You should thank him, and search out the source of the errors.2. Turn the tables. Allow Greg’s coworkers to double-check his work, and point out errors (regardless how insignificant), just to show Greg how irritating that is.

3. Drill down. You need to learn more before taking any action. Have a sit down meeting with Greg and one of Greg’s accusers. Talk it out, and get to the bottom of it.

4. Do nothing. Greg is Greg. This is what he does. Sure, it’s irritating, but he’s an effective salesperson with fiercely loyal clients. It could be worse.


What would you do?

See how your judgment compares with others in the industry at LBMJournal.com.
Final results will appear in The Buzz section of the July 2018 issue.