A friend of mine (lets call him Jim) works in a retail shop. Jim has many years experience in retail and hates it when people don't do things the right way. He has only been working there 2 months and his probation will end at the end of November.

His colleague (lets call him Bob) has been with the company for four years. He is not the sharpest pencil in the packet. Whenever someone tries to improve something, he tells everyone that he is in charge and acts all bossy, saying things like if people don't want to do things his way then he will make sure that certain contracts are not renewed.

The area manager (lets call him John) really doesn't like dealing with staff that don't get along or complain about each other and prefers that staff sort issues out among themselves. He explicitly told Jim that he wants to see people use their initiative. He also said that Bob had his chance as manager and that he couldn't do the job when Jim talked to John about Bob's ways. John also said that the branch doesn't have a manager at the moment, and that everyone is on equal foot and should try to get along as every single person has to prove themselves if they want to remain with the company.

How should Jim go about showing he is able to use his initiative when Bob is "blocking" everyone's attempts?

Edit: The shop only has 6 or 7 employees.

  • @JoeStrazzere That's the hard part. The area manager wants to see people make improvements ie. show what they are capable of in the store, but Bob does't like it when people change stuff. – JustSaying Oct 22 '18 at 20:02
  • I would really like to help my friend find a way to show his value without making Bob mad, which will eventually cause John to get mad as he doesn't like dealing with these types of things. – JustSaying Oct 22 '18 at 20:11
  • This sounds so toxic. Do you know why John doesn't just step up and appoint a manager? – corsiKa Oct 22 '18 at 20:13
  • Possible duplicate of Dealing with someone who thinks he's "divinely right" – Jim G. Oct 23 '18 at 3:38

So here's the thing: Jim and Bob are trying to discuss policies and practices, not people. This is something that John should be interested in; it is the manager's responsibility to make sure things go the best way possible so the company makes the most money. John is not a very good manager if he treats concerns over practices as conflicts between people.

That said, because the issue is over practices, presumably someone made these practices at some point, and presumably there's something wrong with them (or at least something that Jim could improve). In such a case, Jim should speak to John directly and explain what he wants to do and why. If Jim can make his case to John successfully, then John will institute the new practices, because doing so is the best for the business, and that's the important part. John is not interested in hurting feelings, John is interested in doing the best business. It's Jim and Bob who have the personality conflict, so the trick is to get John to do the work.

Conversely, if Jim is not successful in persuading John, then perhaps:

1) Jim is wrong, his solution doesn't actually help as much as he thinks it does (or at least John doesn't think so). John will walk away feeling like Jim is well-meaning, but perhaps overzealous (not a particularly bad thing as reputations go, but nevertheless).

2) Jim is missing an important piece of the puzzle that John and Bob both see but Jim doesn't, possibly because Jim is the most junior of the 3.

Anyway, once again, the point is: John is not emotionally invested in Jim or in Bob. John is invested in the work getting done. If Jim's solution is the best to get the work done, then he will convince Bob; if Bob's solution is the best to get the work done, then he will convince Jim. Either way, the situation will be dealt with.

  • You hit the nail on the head. John implemented 3 of Jims ideas today and repremanded Bob at the same time for trying to stop people seeing if a certain idea can work or not. – JustSaying Oct 23 '18 at 15:52
  • You were right, in the end, John wanted what was best for the business irrespective of what anyone thought. – JustSaying Oct 23 '18 at 17:01

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.