I'm new to a leadership position, having been recently promoted through a reorg. My deputy manager was too. It's a government position. I didn't choose him, we were both assigned, from different former departments. I think that professionally, he is very competent, clearly ahead of the curve. I also thought that he is a nice guy. Now that I work closer with him, I discovered he exhibits quite rude behaviour to certain co-workers he thinks are not good enough, or do not meet his standards, or their behaviour is not to his liking.

In meetings, he reacts in an annoyed manner to questions he thinks are too easy, dressing down people, constantly telling them that all this is well known, well documented and should be clear at this point in the most annoyed tone. He also speaks in derogatory terms of some of the staff when we have personal conversations. I'm pretty sure he does the same with others.

I don't like this behaviour and I don't like that part of my staff is made uncomfortable. He also accused me at one point during the transition period that I would intentionally shut him out of important decisions. I was able to show him that I didn't, and they were not important anyway. Still, the drama has made a lasting impression on me that he has a short fuse and has to be treated carefully.

So I would like to talk to him: Telling him that his behaviour has to change because I don't want the negative atmosphere in the department I am supposed to lead. I also think it is quite unprofessional. He should lead like a shepherd does his flock, not like an officer his soldiers. That is at least my approach to this. If he won't listen, I think I should show him somehow that in the end, I am the manager and he is just the deputy. Like, enforcing the hierarchy now in the beginning, avoiding constant fights long-term. "Showing him his place".

I am looking for a good strategy to achieve this goal. Or maybe I am wrong and should rather review my approach to leadership?

closed as off-topic by IDrinkandIKnowThings, DarkCygnus, mxyzplk, gnat, OldPadawan Aug 26 '18 at 16:01

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    Why the negative votes? – Jim Clay Aug 23 '18 at 21:13
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    @JimClay not mine, but perhaps because the only question (sentence with ?) asked is asking for us to chose for OP (yes/no your review approach is wrong). Reading beyond that, I can even see that the other potential question is "what is a good strategy for this", which if actually written would be too broad. Perhaps if OP asked for a professional phrasing of something specific they have in mind we would be able to better help. Feel free to ping me when the edit is made so I can help give it some shape – DarkCygnus Aug 23 '18 at 22:25
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    "He should lead like a shepherd does his flock, not like an officer his soldiers." "I am the manager and he is just the deputy. Like, enforcing the hierarchy now in the beginning, avoiding constant fights long-term." Do you see the inconsistency between these two? – Philip Kendall Aug 24 '18 at 10:46

I think there are multiple options and ultimately the “best” choice depends on what your deputy is most receptive to.

That being said, my thought is to have a very direct conversation in private on treatment of staff. Make your stance very clear with examples and state that regardless of feelings this is the expected level of respect of others in regards to communications and respectable teamwork environment. Also allow the deputy time to explain their stance and provide a mechanism to address concerns (I.e. we can talk about issue you feel are problematic with personal together in private, but not publicly)

After this I would interrupt him when down-dressing someone and provide the proper way to address the situation. Yes do this in a public forum as you will need to set the standard for everyone not just him. The deputy got their chance to discuss it with you already. Interrupt like “Is there a reason you are unfamiliar with the information? Is there a better way to ensure information is communicated so everyone can be sure to be on the same page? How can we as a team help each other to stay in sync?” Something along those lines as it’s solution based and not blame based.

Naturally the “response” to this is totally subjective to your deputies prejudices, but this would be generic and professional rather than making it personal.


You have two choices:
(without involving others)

1) demonstrate superiority / dominance and assert hierarchy
2) diplomacy

Be certain it is not your perception and that he actually is out of line / unprofessional in his behavior and your team really reacts negatively to his behavior before even considering any action.

Also keep in mind, you're both new in these positions and therefore will automatically establish a "pecking order". The fact that you're his superior will aid you to a degree.

He also may want to undermine you intentionally, so always make sure that you treat your team the way you see fit and that they recognize an ally / team member in you.

Depending on both your personalities, seniority and social / professional standing he either responds to your dominance by submission or resistance resulting in power struggle and bad climate.
There is not much more to say to this, as your initial talk will be very clear, as will his reaction. How that will play out is another story.

You need / want him on your side, don't want to alienate him, yet change his attitude and make him understand both your positions.

Pick something he said you agree with in principal but not in tone and get him to "conspire with / join YOU" to a slight "carrot and stick policy" or "good cop bad cop" strategy, "in order to keep the peace and stave off potential harassment suits".

Show clearly you understand what he tries to convey and support him

"I see your point there... or I know what your mean... or I understand where you're coming from ... or you're absolutely right ...

but want to take a more amicable approach in getting your team to do their work while being kept in check.
Make sure he understands that you see a supportive / encouraging / positively enforcing (or other typical jargon) attitude towards your team while demonstrating mistakes / flaws will lead to higher productivity and job satisfaction.
If you like, throw in a joke about instead of some drastic / overly out of context or funny disciplinary measure "we should do" (insert some other slightly comical approach that still shows your valid and serious point).

I wager that with this more light hearted conversation and diplomatic approach you'll probably sway more people like him to see things your way.

If he then didn't take the hint and continues his behavior, you may enter into 1) territory laying out how you expect your team be treated by him.

After that, should he still fail to behave professionally resort to reprimanding him with further professional consequences down the road. This could include superiors higher up the hierarchy and formal complaints.

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