Different standards for different managers

Dear Joan:

I am the Director of an Adult Daycare which is also part of an Intergenerational Center with children who attend childcare. There is another Director who operates the childcare side and for the most part we run our programs together and have the same visions. 

However, her staff is always comparing the childcare side to the adult side. And I'm getting frustrated always "defending" my program. They are constantly complaining and saying "it's not fair." I feel like it's childish behavior and so petty but I'm trying to act professional and acknowledge their concerns without telling them to "grow up!" 

The problem is the childcare Director's leadership style is more authoritarian and mine is democratic. I allow the adults to have candy for bingo prizes, holidays, etc. and she doesn't allow candy whatsoever. I allow my staff to eat their lunch with our Clients, and she doesn't. These small things are "huge" concerns for her staff because they think I should have the same rules as the childcare.  

But I disagree and think they need to accept our programs are different. What's unfair is treating our elders as children.  

Am I being unreasonable and difficult by not having the same rules as them? How should I handle this? Should I defend myself and explain even though we are in the same facility our programs are completely different? Please help!  I'm feeling overwhelmed by their constant complaints and wish they would just stop bringing so much negativity to my program and staff. 


When adults are treated like children (tightly controlled with no voice), they tend to act like children. I’m making an assumption here but, in general, an authoritarian style creates negative, complaining employees. They feel oppressed—and resent their neighbors who enjoy more freedoms. 

In every organization I work with, each manager has his or her own standards. Ideally, there is enough consistency on major organization-wide issues, such as a standard performance review process, pay grades, benefits and absenteeism policies. But when it comes to things you describe—how employees interact with clients—each department has the latitude to do what makes sense for them.  

There isn’t much you can do about your fellow Director’s leadership style, but perhaps you can appeal to her as a peer who can reinforce your position. The risk is that she may overreact and come down on her employees even harder, which would make things worse.  

If you feel that she will have a balanced reaction to your request, you might say, “Linda, since we have different programs and different populations you and I have different standards, which causes feelings of “unfairness” and conflict between our two staffs. For example, if you hear complaints about my staff eating with clients or having candy for prizes, would you be willing to explain to them that we run different programs and have different populations?” You might also explore areas where you both might equalize the rules to create less conflict. However, I don’t feel it’s necessary for you to tighten up because she does—and she may not want to loosen her rules either. 

In addition, you can support and assure your own staff. Without badmouthing your fellow Director’s style, you could say to your team, “I’m aware that you have been hearing complaints about differences in standards between the two programs. I know some people think it’s unfair that our standards are different. As Directors, Linda and I have the responsibility and authority to set the standards that make the most sense for each of our staffs.  

If someone complains to you, you can respond that ‘our programs and populations are different and so the rules are different’. It isn’t your problem to deal with, so shake it off, or come to me to talk about it if it gets to you.” 

If it continues and escalates, go back to your fellow Director again and underscore, with examples, how much of a morale issue these differences are becoming. Suggest that it might be in her best interest to loosen a rule or two. After all, is it worth this distraction when both of you are trying to achieve your respective goals through satisfied employees? If she feels her standards are necessary and she is unwilling to change them, let it go. Intensify your focus and activities on getting results and ignore the whining.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
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