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Making decisions behind the group leader's back

Hello everyone,

I think this is an interesting case as it can commonly happens.

I created this committee of resident physicians in pediatrics and I recruited the first group (5 people total). After 6 months they went to other functions and I still had 6 months to go at this hospital. We recruited more people and now we are a group of 5 people again. The rule for recruitment is that all members must agree on the new application, it must be at the unanimous decision as we are a small group. We recruited this colleague who's quite dominant, smart and tall. He definitely challenged my leadership more than once. Now I don't care anymore as I'm leaving in 2 weeks. He's also friend with one other member that we recruited so it changes the dynamics as he has one de facto ally who agrees on everything he says/proposes.

My goal was to create this group and that it will continue to live on after me. We have now many connections with different groups of higher ups, one at the regional level (French speaking Switzerland). So from the outcome standpoint it is a success according to my metrics. What they do with this group is not of my concern anymore. I changed the name of my role from "president" to "coordinator" as it reflects more my role.

One of our member to whom I delegated the organization of an aperitif to celebrate the creation of the committee, did so. I think it could have been announced way more in advanced and we would have had with people but so be it. I decided to let go and it's also up to them to learn as I did when I organized my first events. I'm not going to micro-manage and she actually did a great job on many aspects. So it's a success as well.

At this aperitif I did not engage so much in group talks as I preferred to speak with a dutch female pediatrician. I told her that I created the group and that my role was of a coordinator. Maybe I should have not but I thought I was going to do a speech at this aperitif and it did not happen since it was organized at the last minute. So I think unconsciously I wanted a bit of recognition. I'm actually very proud of this achievement as it will bring a lot of good to the residents, the hospital and the patients. Anyway, 2 days after the aperitif, there is a message in the WhatsApp group from him, let's call him Finn:

Him: Picture of an Instagram account.

Him: As discussed during the aperitif of the other day, I created an instagram account for the pediatrics service with the goal to have a more "fun" and "active" channel to transmit the infos/invtes for the events from the committee. The goal is to have all the residents following this account. For the moment it's unofficial, that is not discussed with the executives/direction. It is to be decided if we want to make it official or not.

Me: Yes, it's a good idea, it would have been cool that we discuss it before all together but why not.

His friend: says great things about the instagram account (of course).

So I asked a question further up in the group and no one answered so far. So I do have a small deficit of influence that is not helped with him challenging me at several moments. As I said it's not important as I'm going to leave anyway soon and let them play their petty little games.

What I did my best here was to:

Yes, it's a good idea

Acknowledge that it is value-giving

it would have been cool that we discuss it before all together

Say that I was not informed and that for these kind of decisions, these are group decisions. To discuss an idea in the group is one thing, but to do something without discussing as a group is a breach of trust and of the way it is functioning so far (there is a written document that I did and that was approved by the group that specifies that the mode of decision is based on the majority and he knows that. But apparently he does not care since he did not answer to this message. So it was a power showdown and it reminds me of "leadership BS" where it's more about power than character.

but why not.

Still insists that what matters is the idea and the benefit it can bring to the residents.

That's why I'm happy to leave this university hospital. Too much petty politics. Even the residents are power-hungry. So I love politics, I learned a lot in this highly political environment but I'm looking forward to have a break from it and work in a smaller hospital.

So basically I lost the power showdown. But since he was bringing value, I could not really go too hard. So basically he's quite power-hungry and it is (was) challenging.

So the case study is about how to react when someone publicly put you in front of a "fait-accompli" when you are somewhat equal but still in a leadership role of a free-formed (no constraints) group like an association.

I'm happy to read your thoughts on this.

Hey John,

To be honest, your message there felt a bit passive-aggressive.

As in "I didn't like that move and I'm (tentatively) letting you know, but then pretend it's all good".

John Freeman has reacted to this post.
John Freeman
Community, new content and Confidence University moved here.

Thank you Lucio! I can see that now.

So my intention was to communicate in 1 message:

  1. This is not how we decided to make decisions
  2. But it's still a cool and interesting proposition

So it was not the right format to say this in one sentence, so I could have kept the positive for the message and say the negative in person. Or just drop it.

Also, there has been precedents to his attitude. I appreciate that he thought about this idea though. More background: there is another project he's on that he still has not finished yet. I sent him written feed-back on his project a couple weeks ago and he did not tell me if he received or not. No "thanks" either. So I asked him publicly in the WA group if he received it. His (fast) answer: "Yes I did, I will try to finish it this week."

Also I did not want to start a conflict via WhatsApp as :

  1. It never goes well and escalate fast without face to face, especially if it's public as people will defend their image more fiercely
  2. It was not that important in the end, it was more about the way it was done.

So maybe it would have been better:

Him: As discussed during the aperitif of the other day, I created an instagram account for the pediatrics service with the goal to have a more "fun" and "active" channel to transmit the infos/invtes for the events from the committee. The goal is to have all the residents following this account. For the moment it's unofficial, that is not discussed with the executives/direction. It is to be decided if we want to make it official or not.

Me: Yes, it's a good idea, let's discuss it in more details at our next meeting.

And then when face-to-face in private: "It's not a big deal: you know man, it's better if we discuss these things together before moving forward. I don't know if you remember but we decided to make decisions at the majority for the projects. Again it's not a big deal."

The other ways I thought about responding would also sound passive aggressive.

Thanks! I would have not spotted it otherwise.

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano
Hi John,
Without having read everything, I agree with Lucio that your message felt a bit passive-aggressive:
Quote from John Freeman on April 16, 2023, 7:22 pm

Him: [Picture of an Instagram account.]

Him: As discussed during the aperitif of the other day, I created an instagram account for the pediatrics service with the goal to have a more "fun" and "active" channel to transmit the infos/invtes for the events from the committee. The goal is to have all the residents following this account. For the moment it's unofficial, that is not discussed with the executives/direction. It is to be decided if we want to make it official or not.

Me: "Yes, it's a good idea, it would have been cool that we discuss it before all together but why not."

(...)

but why not.

Still insists that what matters is the idea and the benefit it can bring to the residents.

(...)

The feeling that I got from your message was more of, "It wasn't cool that we didn't all discuss this together beforehand, but that's OK."

And, that "but that's OK" felt similar to a covert aggression move Trump used sometimes (see "Attack & offend, then say 'but that's OK'").

The difference is that because you didn't deliver any direct talk, it came across less like covert aggression and more like passive-aggression (the way I see it).

But, skimming your most recent post in this thread, I think you got the idea, and if you have any thoughts, happy to read.

Lucio Buffalmano and John Freeman have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoJohn Freeman

Thanks a lot, Ali!

This leads me to the "it's not a big deal".  When delivering a "it's not a big deal" in a "sandwich" way, I was wondering if it was not passive-aggressive as well. As I write this I can see it's not. Because in the structure:

  1. It's not a big deal (preframe)
  2. [current situation]
  3. [desired behaviour change]
  4. Again, it's not a big deal, I wanted to tell you so we're on the same page (warm smile)

As in:

"Hey man, you have a minute? I wanted to talk to you about something real quick. First, I want to say it's not a big deal. You know when you created an instagram page and we did not discussed it beforehand. That would be cool in the future if we discuss it in a group meeting. I don't know if you remember but that's the way we all decided to make decisions. Again, it's not a big deal (warm smile). What do you think?"

Is not passive-aggressive

  1. It's delivered privately in person (respectful, face-saving)
  2. It's assertive (honest)
  3. It has a warm/collaborative verbal and-non-verbal frame (reference to the "my pleasure" from the Hormozi/Alex exchange where the context was confrontational)

I thought that my message achieved the communication above but that was obviously not the case. So thank you Lucio and Ali, it's helpful for me!

That's how I view it. Curious if you guys have any comments on this.

Hi John,

I would omit the "It's not a big deal" part in its entirety, whether it's at the beginning, at the end, or in the middle.

It just sounds like a power move, irrespectively of how one puts it.

If you are raising an issue, it is obvious that it is a big deal; otherwise you wouldn't raise it.

I think it's one of the cases where being more congruent is better.

Let the other person complain that it's "not a big deal", and then you restate your position with the implied understanding that for you it is a big deal (without saying it out loud).

Even in cases where the specific issue is not a big deal, it's obvious that one would not raise it unless there's a slippery slope going on. So IMO it is a big deal in any case.

Lucio Buffalmano, Ali Scarlett and John Freeman have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoAli ScarlettJohn Freeman

+1 to Bel's "leave it out for good".

It's also not good because:

  • It can sub-communicate fear, as if you want to downplay the event in advance to avoid someone pushing back (and you then having to hold frame and deal with the issue)
  • It's babying, as if you want to protect their feelings. And since people also tend to communicate the way they'd want to be communicated to, it also reflects bad on you (as in "John wants to have his feelings protected so we can't speak straight and direct to him"?)
Ali Scarlett, John Freeman and Bel have reacted to this post.
Ali ScarlettJohn FreemanBel
Community, new content and Confidence University moved here.

Hello Bel and Lucio,

Thanks a lot! To be more clear, I don't intend to talk about this with him. It's not worth the investment as I will not be part of the group in 1 week. I do not care anymore, now it's their responsibility. My question is more about how to give feed-back in cases like this since it seems I have it wrong. If I would be staying I would talk about it with him. Also, I think it does not make sense for me to give such a feed-back if I'm leaving very soon as it's not relevant  because I will not be concerned anymore by these projects.

My understanding so far was that to use "it's not a big deal" as an introduction accomplishes power-protecting/face-saving. It seems it is not the case. Yes, it was about protecting their feeling as if the person feels hurt, then the message might not get through, I could create a secret enemy and hurt the person. I also might be influenced by me getting hurt by previous negative feed-backs and I could be projecting it on others people as you suggested. Based on your feed-back, I changed the wording like this:

"Hey man, you have a minute? I wanted to talk to you about something real quick. You know when you created an instagram page and we did not discussed it beforehand. That would be cool in the future if we discuss it in a group meeting. I don't know if you remember but that's the way we all decided to make decisions. What do you think about this?"

I'm open to revise my opinion on any of the above as I am obviously missing something.

There's always a problem on how to tell somebody that he did wrong without them getting angry about it.

But a true leader can say what should be done even if there is chance of them resenting you, a solid teammate will not get angry at correction if he knows it's fair, and it's fair to ask a person to discuss decisions with group before doing something that affects it if that's what was agreed upon. You saw doing things on your own a problem to the group so it's not wrong to say "Don't make decisions without asking others" and focusing on it without any power-protecting, after he understands his mistake you may save his face then, if one does it before the person responded they are weakening their point, and if it's an important point this is a bad move.

When it's a solid teammate he will understand his mistake and then you can add "It's still a good idea, so don't worry much" or if it wasn't "It happens, no worries" so there's barely any lose for him ( he will even be grateful for advice ), and if it's a person who power moves and resents you, then you need all the power you can have to keep on pushing.

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