10

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.

marked as duplicate by gnat, NotMe, scaaahu, Snow, AffableAmbler Mar 28 '18 at 14:00

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  • 1
    Are you actually saying something wrong when you are being corrected? – George Mar 28 '18 at 14:13
  • You address it directly, privately, every time it happens as soon as possible after the incedent. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Mar 29 '18 at 0:14
7

This behavior is not acceptable under any circumstance, and this needs to be stopped as soon as possible.

As Managers we often times have to have conversations with employees that are uncomfortable, but it comes with the territory. You need to set up a 1:1 meeting with her and lay out your expectations plainly and respectfully. You are both adults and should be able to have a frank conversation with each other.

You do need to point out that as her Manager you do not appreciate her current behavior and it needs to stop. BUT you can throw her a bone and say that you appreciate her opinion/feedback and knowledge - just not in situations where it effectively undermines your position.

You also need to take notes during the meeting . "On such an such a date I met with [insert name here] to discuss my expectations as her manager......" and so on and so forth. This is important since it is the start of documentation that will allow you to take further actions if needed later.

  • Do not be afraid to have a candid conversation with an employee.
  • Do not be afraid to take control during a meeting especially if someone is stepping over the line.

Just remember that you lead by example and by acting in a respectful yet firm manner I think you will find people taking their queues from you.

Good Luck (not that you need it)

6

I think the root of this behavior is:

who happened to apply for the position and not get it

She is bitter and wants to prove she is more capable than you. I don't think you are going to earn respect as this is something she decided without even knowing your capabilities.

I don't think you should have conceded:

empathize for a moment how frustrating it must be to have a new supervisor who doesn’t know this place well

Hold firm and make corrections as you have clear opportunities. If she interjects about personal stuff then respond "can we stick to business".

If things get chippy tell her "you know I am the person to write your performance appraisal".

2

Ask to see her in your office or someplace quiet where you can talk.

Next (This part may sound silly but)...

Simply tell her to please not correct you in public. You can ask her to bring up her concerns in private if you like.

You could also mention that correcting people in public is disrespectful or impolite and contradictory to your policies and performance expectations.

HOW you tell her this would depend on your management style. Do you say it forcefully with menacing undertones or do you calmly and respectfully tell her? Do you try to establish good engagement then tell her in a warm heartfelt manner that when she does this you feel it makes you look bad and you find it hurtful?

How do you normally talk to people about behaviors you don’t like?

I tend to try to deal with people calmly, rationally, and respectively but there are certain “special” people out there that seem to only respond to strong emotional responses, dominating type behavior, fear etc. knowing how to talk to certain people is just something you learn with experience.

How you tell her may almost be more important than the specific information you impart.

Protip: simply telling people what you want and what behaviors you like and don’t like works really well in a lot of situations especially in relationships.

1

You sound like a nice person, and she sounds like she is taking advantage of this.

Personally, I would take notes as these situations arise for a week or two, and then I would call her in my office and address the disrespect issue head on. Here's how to do that:

  • Note specific examples. Tell her what bothers you about each example. Turn the tables by explaining that you are new and a bit unsure of yourself, and asking her how she would react in this situation if she were in your shoes. (This is the only time during the conversation when you should show a little vulnerability.)
  • Tell her that you value her opinions and want to hear them, but that challenging you in numerous ways, even subtle ways, is detrimental to your relationship and it is something that she needs to change. Again, you aren't trying to stifle her opinions, but they need to be brought forth in the right way. Use your examples to tell her how you expect her to act in similar situations.

If you don't see improvement quickly, have the same conversation again. Don't do it once and let it slide. You need to gain her respect, and if you make the unwanted behavior uncomfortable for her, you'll see results more quickly.

If the passive-aggressive behavior continues - or gets worse - consider abruptly ending the meeting or group conversation on the spot the next time it happens. "We need to cut this short, and I will reschedule. Thanks, everyone. Jane, could I see you in my office please?" Then tell her her behavior isn't acceptable and you don't expect it to happen again. That is a last resort, but I have done this in last-resort cases and it almost always gets the point across - not just to her, but to everyone in your group.

1

From your post, it looks like a typical succession crisis; only you probably did not expect it being a lateral hire. None the less, it is actually that and the net out come, if you don't do anything now, would be final dilution of your position and that lady taking over, from your post it looks like it has already started.

Now, if the above diagnosis of the problem is correct, so is the solution, when a CEO is asked to leave and a new CEO is appointed, usually a large bunch of general managers resign; that is part of the power consolidation.

In your case, the power consolidation would look like, this lady resigning and that must happen otherwise your position would never be safe.

Next the question of execution, this would depend on the culture, your goodwill with your boss, other peer supervisors etc. However, since she behaves equally badly with other supervisors and cohort approach could be thought about. If 3 supervisors tell at the same time a specific employee is no good and have evidence to support, then it is not easy for a boss to overlook that on a sustained basis.

Another approach could be to relegate her to the organization barren land of progressively unimportant duties, where the lack of her interest would show up as in competencies on appraisal cycle.

Yet again, another way could be through symbolic demotion by bypassing her for all the important duties and slowly push her out of a position of prominence and getting the young employees on your side (that is exactly what she is doing by being nice to them and being insubordinate to you and when the time comes she will go to your boss and tell him to go and get their feedback as to who would be a better supervisor).

Yet another is in-direct demotion, where you can put someone else above her who is currently her peer as a 'single-point-of-contact' for a specific project/activity/responsibility. If you get lucky, she has to combat then on 2 fronts.

My take would be she is sounding out all 3 of you as all of you are lateral hires for a possible breakthrough for one of the positions.

The above are just suggestion of course ... mere suggestions :)

-11

We're adults, we don't need conversation. Immediately send the person a termination letter.

As a senior manager you'd need to prove your authority. Anybody who disrespects you must go. Please safeguard the company asset before you actually give out the letter.

Think like Donald Trump, anybody who doesn't obligate the president must be sacked. That's what management is about. Other than the managing director, there shouldn't be anybody in the company that you can't terminate. You should only hire your followers. Not a follower? find a replacement.

EDIT

My answer is not a joke, it's a serious attempt at solving the situation. Rex Tillerson was terminated by Donald Trump for exactly the same reason. It is working for the US government. As a senior manager, you have to show your authority. Find someone else more qualified.

  • 3
    To the user who raised Low Quality Posts flag. We can disagree with this answer. But, this is an answer and not a low quality one. There are managers who work this way. Some of them are successful, some are not. If you don't agree with his management style, give it a downvote. – scaaahu Mar 28 '18 at 14:33
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    @scaaahu, I now also flaggged it as low quality, even though it may be an attempt at humor. While OP’s report is certainly on the track for termination. A capricious, immediate termination without serious attempts to resolve or even discuss the problem would be harmful to the OP as well as the org. Such actions have repercussions as top talent will then reassess whether or not they want to stay in such an environment. One could end up with a brain-drain and bad reputation. – teego1967 Mar 28 '18 at 15:54
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    @teego1967 This is one of those instances where I think it's better to leave the answer with all of its downvotes to show how bad of an idea it is. Deleting it only hides it from future viewers. Knowing what not to do is sometimes just as important as knowing what to do. – David K Mar 28 '18 at 19:07
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    @SmallChess, the strangeness of your comment and edit makes me think that you're now skidding into parody. FWIW, the Trump administration has been in a downward spiral of dysfunction that started on day one and is only getting more serious. But suppose Putin/Trump/Tillerson and the rest of the clown-car was remotely legit-- why do you think modeling their behavior would be something the thoughtful well-meaning OP would even dream of doing? – teego1967 Mar 29 '18 at 0:18
  • 1
    You could get your private security detail to deliver the termination. Or maybe just put out a tweet. Try to be as non-confrontational and passive aggressive as possible. – AffableAmbler Mar 29 '18 at 19:43

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