When I started my current position I had a direct report who underperformed massively.

To be completely fair, it probably wasn't 100% his fault: I assume the role promised to him before I started was to be less technical than it really was. He wasn't interested in doing what was expected from him and blamed me for insisting on him taking on these tasks.

Solving the problem included involving HR, who escalated the issue and saw it as a conflict of personalities instead of what it really was: a person not interested in doing a specific type of work. He had every right not to, but it meant we needed to find a person who had skills and felt like doing it. All in all, it cost both of us, the former report and me, a lot of stress and although I didn't do anything wrong, I'm sure the former colleague would do a lot in order not to work with me again.

He then moved to another big employer in the city.

Fast forward several months, HR's behavior turned out to be representative of the company culture and I have reasons to start job-searching again. There's a position in my former report's company that I find appealing.

I would apply but I'm not sure I should given it's possible that I would end up being my former employee's boss again. How should I play that?

  • 3
    In the most important part of the question, your English isn't very clear. Do you mean, you will be working under your ex-direct report, as his manager, as his co-worker, or you don't know? Nov 16 '20 at 13:01
  • @JoeStevens, probably as his manager. Or in another unit, but I think "his manager" is more probable.
    – user68203
    Nov 16 '20 at 13:03
  • I think the saying goes, “time heals all wounds” or something like that...apply for it, if the guy is a terrivle worker, he’ll get fired again, no problem, if he’s in a position that he liked, he may be pleasant to work with now, go apply.
    – morbo
    Nov 16 '20 at 13:27
  • Maybe he now is is a position which interess him and he's doing his best.
    – Maxime
    Nov 18 '20 at 0:24

Good news - it's a non-issue.

This sort of situation is perfectly normal.

During the course of your career, it will happen a number of times - in all permutations!

Indeed in certain industries it's so common it's a non-event.

Don't even consider it as an issue - move on with your choice.

In all workplaces (such as your new one) there will be team members who are problematic for one reason or another (incompetence, body odor, too loud ... whatever).

It's a non-issue and the keyword is there will be mild problems, in every single workplace.

Enjoy and move on.


I would apply but I'm not sure I should given it's possible that it's a position of my former employee's boss (again). How should I play that?

Having already dealt with this employee, you should be in a better position to not only deal with this specific employee but any problematic employee that you encounter. This of course is assuming that you learned from your previous encounter.

If you feel that you have not yet learned how to handle such situations, then it is probably best to not apply for this type of role until you are confident in your abilities.

  • An astute answer!
    – Fattie
    Nov 17 '20 at 12:35

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