How to Overcome the Typical Hostility towards Interim Management

Interim management is often met with hostility. The employees or teams that are expecting a stringent assessment and review, perhaps even a raw deal with the possibility of being handed the pink slip, are often not too welcoming of interim managers and trouble-shooters. The degree of hostility varies of course. Some employees may be more reasonable than others. An interim manager needs to overcome this typical hostility and one needs help of those in leadership positions who are familiar with the employees.

• One of the effective ways to counter the initial hostility, which may be unfounded in some cases, is to be completely honest. Saying good things and trying to be nice often does not break the ice. Many employees can see through the good cop routine when they know something unpleasant is cooking and will be served sooner or later. Interim interventions always have a purpose and they are rarely about pleasant developments. Companies look for interim measures that are stopgap and remedies to prevailing problems. Honesty will not eliminate hostility but will establish the ground rules. There will be some receptivity among many in the staff.

• Another effective way to mitigate the hostility is to be communicative. The more an interim leader talks to the staff, the better they understand one another, and this breaks the ice. Many interim managers maintain a distance because of the inevitable deeds they must resort to at the right time. Not every problem leads to firing someone. There can be substantial displacement and even changes to key responsibilities and job profiles draw the resentment of some people. Communication can at least make the proceedings more convenient for everyone.

The same strategy does not work in every scenario, but it is necessary to have a few tactics up the sleeve than go in to meet the hostility head on.