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How to communicate about a team reorganization?

Meetings
Internal Communication
Productivity
Reorganization
Toxic Atmospheres
Team Reaction

6 December, 2017

Joao Miguel Quitério
Joao Miguel Quitério

Engineering Director at BitSight Technologies

Joao reorganizes an underperforming team by having one-on-ones with each of his team members. Later, an employee reproaches him for doing this, as they believe the one-on-ones were used to isolate them.

Problem

A few years ago, I was leading a team composed of a mashup of people from several areas: security, productivity, and operations. I noticed that even though nothing was obviously wrong with this team, it was not very performing very well and the atmosphere was quite tense. I realized that reorganization could be beneficial in terms of focus and atmosphere, and therefore, decided on some big changes. This included splitting the team into three distinct teams, and reassigning some engineers into other projects.

Actions taken

I knew that these changes would impact people's professional lives, so I decided to make an extra effort to communicate. I organized a one-on-one with each member of the team, so that each of them would be able to talk about their concerns. I thought it had been successful and was proud to have taken the time to do things well. But, a few months later, one person who was leaving the company told me in his departure interview that he didn't appreciate the way I had dealt with the structural change. He felt that by separating the team and talking to them one-on-one, I had ensured they wouldn't protest against my decision. He wished I had announced the news to the team as a group.

Lessons learned

The reason I hadn't organized an open discussion about the reorganization was that it was a bit sensitive. It was obvious that there was an elephant in the room. Looking back, I still think that the decision to reorganize the team was correct, but I didn't communicate it well. The first lessons I learned is that I should have held a team meeting to announce the changes, as well as having one-on-ones with each team member. The second lesson I learned is that when there is a tense atmosphere, it is the team's manager's role to discuss it.

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