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I have recently been promoted to manage a small team I worked in before. My problem is, one of my coworkers.

The co-worker (Jane) is a person I really do not like. We’ve had several loud clashes. Most of my coworkers don't like Jane very much, but they don't work close to her everyday, so they can tolerate her at lunch and various social gatherings. Furthermore, I think the work Jane does is shoddy and the only reason she has not been fired, as I see it, is that she has been able to "hide" in a relative big department.

Now, our company has been re-organized, and I have a different boss and the chance to make a really good team. My new boss wants everyone to get a fair chance.

I’ve tried to get her replaced to another team - the only real viable team doesn’t want her. She has skills that could be good other places, just not in our current team.

My boss knows we do not get along well. He is open to replacing her, but as stated, wants to give her a fair chance.

Given my strong personal bias - how can I give Jane a fair chance?

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Hi Clark, I went ahead and reopened. Thanks for taking the time to edit your post and help improve our community's site! The close-edit-reopen cycle works, and we now have something a lot more focused. – jmort253 Feb 19 at 15:29
up vote 61 down vote accepted

Objectively assess her work, identify where she needs to improve and manage her. Her work performance includes her interactions with the team which should be professional and cordial. Throw out any and all personal feelings you have for this employee, they are irrelevant.

When it comes to managing a person you personally dislike, this is what Allison Green has to say:

First, stop seeing your relationships with colleagues in terms of who you like and who you don't like. Your job as a manager isn't to be friends with the people who work for you — in fact, it's to not be friends with them. (You need to preserve professional boundaries so that you can objectively assess their work, give feedback, make tough decisions about their tenure with the company if necessary, and generally be their boss, not their friend.)

That means that you need to focus on his work, not whether you enjoy hanging out with him.

However, if his behaviors are impacting his effectiveness, then as his manager, you're almost obligated to talk to him about that. And that might be a legitimate issue here, since it sounds like you're partly identifying a problem with how he's fitting in with your office's culture and expectations about behavior.

[problematic behaviors with impact on the team] These are the types of things that you should talk with him about, because these are legitimate areas for you to care about — they affect his own performance and they affect your team in general.

But again, you should be approaching this utterly dispassionately — it's not about whether you like him (irrelevant); it's about his impact in the workplace, good and bad.

Source: when you manage someone who you personally dislike, Alison Green, May 14 2012


Also I feel I should point out that you should never pawn a bad employee off to another team. As a manager your main role is building and maintaining a competent team. Putting it very crudely, any pieces that aren't up to spec should either be improved or removed. Passing bad employees off to other teams is dodging the responsibility you have to your team and your company and the opposite of managing.

As ColleenV points out I should clarify "bad employee". In the above paragraph I'm referring to employees with performance or attitude problems that are unlikely to improve. If an employee is simply out of his depth or struggling with particular aspects of his job, and there is an option to transfer him to a role that he would excel at (and that he would enjoy), then that is often a great solution. In that case you're simply transferring a good employee to a role that he would perform better at and based on anecdotal evidence this is almost always works out well for all parties involved.

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And once you have identified what she needs to improve get HR involved in the communicating it with her. It may or may not come as a first warning but having HR There will help prevent her from saying you said something you did not. – Chad Feb 1 at 16:09
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@Chad Good point, as a new manager OP will also want to make sure he follows standard company procedures if he does eventually have to fire her and HR can help there as well. – Lilienthal Feb 1 at 16:22
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I agree with the idea that you don't pass the buck if you're dealing with someone who should be fired, but there are folks that don't fit with one team that can be very valuable contributors in a different situation. If moving someone to another team is being considered, there should be reasons why they should go to a particular team or have a different work situation instead of simply "they don't fit here with the way we like to do things". – ColleenV Feb 1 at 22:30
    
@ColleenV Great point, I've clarified that part of my answer. – Lilienthal Feb 2 at 11:45

I agree 100% with what @Lilienthal has to say. I just want to add an additional point.

When you dislike someone, it is easy to hold them to a different standard than people you like. When you manage this person, there are clearly going to be times when you need to call her in and discuss performance expectations. When you do, ask yourself if you are letting other people get away with the same behavior that you are calling her on. I have seen people hold a person they dislike to a different standard and demote or fire them and then have that backfire when the other person took it to court. So be extra careful that you don't let bias affect how you manage.

I am going to add one other thing. Since you are a new manager for the group (or at least new to some of the employees in the group) it is worth your time to sit down with each employee individually (including the one you don't like) and explain how you intend to manage things and what your performance expectations are. This is not singling her out as the potential problem, but it does give her a clear understanding of how she will have to adjust to your management expectations before you start actually telling her that her performance is bad. Anytime you have a potential performance problem (and really anytime you take over a new groups of people, but especially then) it is best to have them get a clear understanding of what you want right from the start and then you can reference the discussion if you the performance adjustment is not made.

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I don't like that man. I must get to know him better. - Abraham Lincoln

Sounds like you have judged Jane without knowing too much about her (yes I know she's stepped on your toes, but do you really know why?). Get to know her better, find out what drives her and maybe you'll reach a better place.

If not, then get used to it, you're not there to be her friend, you're there to be her manager, be professional and put your opinions on the back burner.

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I've worked with Jane for 3 years. I honestly tried this, and it actually just made it worse... – Clark Kent Feb 2 at 7:01
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So if you've tried it, what's her issue with you? – The Wandering Dev Manager Feb 2 at 9:20
    
How did you come to the conclusion that the OP doesn't know much about Jane? I'm seeing nothing indicating that in the question. – Myles Feb 19 at 17:05
    
Myles - See my comment above, there are no specifics. People rarely just dislike each other, there is always a reason. If the OP knew more they might be able to address it, or at least get to a truce level, but the commentry is vague, and mentions people avoid her at lunch etc. – The Wandering Dev Manager Feb 19 at 18:08

I think you have a great opportunity to shine in your new position.

First thing you must do is lead, not manage. I would recommend sitting down with her and having a discussion with her. Learn what she wants and needs to succeed and, as her supervisor, help her with those things. Learn what obstacles she has to succeeding and remove any that you can within your authority as a supervisor.

Don't cringe when you have to deal with her. If all the people who have been doing a good job continue to do a good job, you will have done nothing but maintain status quo. However, helping a problem employee become a valuable employee is great accomplishment for a new supervisor.

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You recognize you have a bias, but there are other indications you have some objective concerns as well.

As the leader of a team, it is up to you to make sure a member doesn't overly hinder the work of others and that includes you. Also, other departments don't want her, so what is the reasoning that you have to be "stuck" with her?

I don't know if you can do anything about being annoyed by this person, but when someone takes credit for your work, there is a trust issue and you should bring it up. It is only fair to tell her about it and let Jane know she needs to get your trust back by not doing this in the future to you or anyone else. Any limitations in work production or quality should be brought up as well. Set goals and possibly assign someone else to be a mentor if you think they can be objective and try to improve this person't work.

Hopefully, you can get some of her shortcomings in the workplace out of the way and maybe Jane won't be so annoying. At least be tolerable.

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If you are in a hire/fire role, just fire this person. You already have first-hand experience with her workstyle, so end it. People can be very perceptive, so if you beat around the bush when your history shows you can't work together, I think you'll just come off as playing games with this employee. "Give her a chance" if and only if you genuinely want to. Anything less is insincere and will make this person angry.

Cut her loose, quick and easy, with no drama. Be respectful and honest, and you'll be above suspicion or accusation.

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In light of the recent downvotes, I recognize that I worded my response to this post with some strong language. Honestly, OP's situation struck a chord with me. Allow me to share this article and to draw your attention to point #5 therein. Perhaps it will state more elegantly the point I was trying to make. In any case, OP, I hope things get better over there. inc.com/young-entrepreneur-council/… – Enrique Pineda Feb 11 at 8:18

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