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So I just started a new job with a small, intensive non-profit less than two weeks ago. I was an outside hire, coming into a management position, second to the Executive Director. I hadn’t done this exact crisis work before, but I had very relatable experience in addition to some management experience (which none of the current employees had, to my knowledge). So far, everyone has been fairly pleasant except one of my employees – one who happened to apply for the position and not get it. She has only been with the non-profit since mid-October (part-time), and only full-time since January. We are both females in our mid to late twenties. I am white, and she is not, and I only mention that because I believe this could be playing a factor as it has caused issues in the past in this office, and now there are three white women in all 3 supervisor roles (for the first time).
I am really struggling with how to handle interactions with this employee. She is constantly correcting me – to the point that it’s not even always about work, or conversations she’s a part of. At first, I thought it was simply her personality and how she treats everyone – and humbly appreciated the corrections as a newbie – but I’ve watched her interactions with the other two newest employees and she is far more warm/gentle around them. She also apparently acts in a similar way around the other young female supervisor, who is not her direct supervisor. Plus, sometimes she isn’t even correct in her correction – i.e. she’s outright told me something’s not a rule when it is, but she just didn’t know about it (the latter is what she tells our ED). The most difficult thing is that everything is so subtle that I can’t really call her out on it – but when you look at the massive number of times it’s already happened in less than two weeks, it’s obvious that it is happening. When she does correct me, I typically say something like, “oh, I wasn’t aware that’s a new rule,” or “oh really? That’s not what (ED) had said. But okay!” I try to be humble and polite.
I struggled to think of something that I may have done to set us on the wrong foot, and the only two instances I could think of, I tried to address. In our first (and only) one-on-one, I brought up the elephant in the room, telling her we didn’t ever have to talk about it again unless she wanted to, but that I wanted to empathize for a moment how frustrating it must be to have a new supervisor who doesn’t know this place well yet, etc. It seemed to go okay and we quickly moved on. The second time was her screwing something sensitive up, and I was told by the ED to send out a reminder email afterwards – I thought maybe she considered this to be passive aggressive (despite talking to her in person first) or that I was bringing to everyone’s attention that she had screwed up, and just wanted to quickly apologize to her in case she took it that way. Again, she acted like “we’re good” and “I didn’t even know what email you were talking about” but very obviously did not want to engage in the topic – or perhaps, with me in this role, period. Overall, I’ve talked with one or two people about this, and they don’t think I did anything in particular anyways, and that she’s probably just still sour about not getting the job.
I’m not sure how to correct the path we’re on, especially if it’s not something I’ve done I can apologize for (not that she wants to engage in those conversations anyways). I don’t need her to be my best friend, but I feel like the disrespectfulness is only going to continue to get worse – and that it might catch with other employees that she meets privately with when working on projects. But I also don’t feel like I can address such subtle probes. I like to think of myself as a pretty easy-going manager, and I can respect someone who just wants work to be about business, and I think she could otherwise be a great asset for me to learn from over these first few months, as she seems quite skilled at what she does. But I have no idea how to earn respect from someone whom I haven’t done anything to lose respect from to begin with.