My client called me in a panic. “They hate me. What do I do? How do I handle this?” For over a year, my client (we’ll call her Amanda) had been working on an investigation in Eastern Europe. The investigation had been long and slow, leading everyone to be exhausted, including her. As the investigation wrapped up, two senior leaders were fired for misconduct, leaving resentment and anger in the officer. In response, management decided to relocate Amanda, parachuting her into Romania to keep an eye on things and revamp the culture. People were cold and didn’t answer her calls.
What was she to do? And more importantly, what are you to do when you perceive robust distrust and anger in pockets of your organization? Remember six things.
You’re here to Get a Job Done
First, remember that you’re here to do a job. While resentment or mistrust may be present, in the end, it doesn’t matter whether everyone likes you. You’re in the organization to drive an ethical culture and ensure compliance with the law. In the face of indignation, remember that your mission is critical. By holding tight to your purpose, you can weather the resistance.
You are Not Your Job
Separate yourself as a person from your role as the compliance officer. Some folks may temporarily hate what you’re doing, and that may make them think they hate you. But the true you isn’t your job. Your job will change, your age will change, your location may change, but the core of who you are doesn’t change. While your job may be part of your identity now, it won’t always be. Be conscious of your true self who is not your job.
Trust takes Time
Amanda’s biggest problem was a lack of trust. After the investigation, people didn’t believe that she was there to help. She needed to remember that trust takes time to build.
It would be nice if trust could be built or rebuilt in a day, but the truth is, a million little micro-actions need to take place to build the bonds of positive goodwill. When you’re in this situation, focus on the little wins. A smile from someone can be counted as success.
You Can Start Over
At the first leadership meeting Amanda attended, she openly acknowledged the challenges that the investigation had caused, then reminded everyone that she had been brought in to help the business succeed. It was a new day with new management, and she was there to start over with them.
When feelings have been hurt, whether through an investigation, disciplinary action, or the firing of a colleague, acknowledge the pain, then turn the page.
Take the Five-Year View
When Amanda was assigned to the region, the investigation was fresh in everyone’s mind. People loyal to the unethical leaders were still angry about their departure. Others were fearful that they would be caught up in the aftermath of the investigation. For the moment, the office was consumed with discontent.
I advised Amanda to imagine the business in five years. Many current employees will have left in five years, and those that remain will be used to the new way of working. Should Amanda be in the job in five years, working in the office will be much easier than it is now.
When you’re stuck in a personality struggle or are dealing with bad will, think about how significantly things can change in five years. The new perspective can help you to get through today’s challenges.
Find Your Allies
While some people may dislike you, there will always be someone who believes in compliance and ethics. Cling tightly to those who share the compliance mission. Every ally you can recruit may shift the opinions of others at the company.
I caught up with Amanda this week, and she says that things are better than they were nine months ago. She’s been patient and has been building trust one day at a time. Ironically, the pandemic has helped, as there has been less opportunity for people to gather at the water cooler to complain and cast dispersion. She’s been able to build relationships, one Zoom call at a time. Did people hate her? Perhaps they did initially, but she’s breaking through that every day – and so can you.