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A friend of mine recently got hired for a new job. After she joined, she realized that she was replacing an ex-employee who was terminated. The ex-employee was well liked amongst his peers. Now, her new colleagues often make uncomfortable remarks such as "You shouldn't be here" because they could not figure out why the last guy was let go. They insinuate that she was hired because she was liked by management and not based on her abilities and that she essentially took away the job of their friend.

What can she do to mitigate the situation and get to a better working relationship with her new colleagues?

  • Should she talk to the management? She would prefer not to do this and risk further alienating her colleagues
  • Should she talk to her colleagues and explain how she did not "steal" anyone's job? This may create more problems
  • Should she just ignore the unkind remarks and wait it out for them to know her better and eventually accept her?
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    Woman steps into shoes popular man's man? Smacks of causal sexism There are too many movies built on this specific plot. Usually ends with her having to demonstrate she's one of the boys – kolossus Apr 13 '14 at 18:38
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    @kolossus Maybe, but I have seen a similar issue occur with a man instead of a woman. I think a great answer would answer from both a gender and a non-gender specific perspective. – ConcernedFriend Apr 13 '14 at 18:42
  • I am sorry, but can you explain the downvote? – ConcernedFriend Apr 13 '14 at 21:09
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    @gnat I don't believe this is an attempt to "offload to a listening pair of ears". Is this question really so topical that it's unanswerable and not useful to other people? – ConcernedFriend Apr 13 '14 at 21:10
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One of the things that someone in a new position has to do is to build trust with their new team. When the new person is in the position of replacing someone, this is all the more difficult.

Behave with the utmost professionalism. Be open and friendly. If possible, let negative comments slide by. If someone is more confrontational about it, your friend can gently remind them that she doesn't know her predecessor and isn't responsible for what happened to that person. She should also look for people who aren't so negative and use that as a starting point for building relationships. All the while, she has to focus on delivering results that prove she is qualified for the position.

As part of the ongoing dialog between an employee and their manager, your friend should discuss what is going well and what she is finding challenging. Her manager might be able to provide her with some additional advice that is specific to her situation and her working environment. Talking to a manager doesn't necessarily mean that the manager is the one who takes action, or that it will have negative repercussions for those around her.

It's a sticky situation, and your friend will have to be very careful.

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If you are hired to replace someone that was let go, then obviously the role is essential to the employer. The previous person was, most likely, not performing adequately. Since no information is offered on what the role is, it's hard to tell from the post how critical it is to organization operations.

If the 'friend of the team' was replaced by a 'friend of the managers' then this whole thing is an issue of who likes who. The former employee was inconvenient, the current employee is a 'pretty face', and for whatever reason the manager(s) wanted the pretty face. Under the circumstances it will take time for the matter to settle, the best thing she could do is try to put her co-workers at ease - mix with them socially as appropriate. She might learn something about the ex-employee that hints at what actually happened.

If the employment determination was highly performance driven, she needs to show that she can fill those shoes and support the team. Once everyone else realizes she's essential to their success, they'll appreciate her presence.

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    This also is very true of internal replacement. We had a network admin who was fired for reasons that could not safely be explained to the rest of the team (Risk of legal consequences under defamation) The assistant admin took over and it was assumed something under handed had happened. It took a great deal of time and effort for the team to warm up to the assistant admin taking over since the admin was liked on a personal level. All you can do is try to fit in and fill the last person's shoes. Over time people will come around. – RualStorge Apr 15 '14 at 17:38
  • This is an I Agree your problems sucks answer... It does not give any help with actually helping the OP with techniques or pointers on how to actually get past the issue. You just say it will take time but do not explain what the OP needs to do. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 15 '14 at 19:34
  • @Chad - "...best thing she could do is try to put her co-workers at ease - mix with them socially as appropriate" - not an action, evidently. "...she needs to show that she can fill those shoes and support the team" - not an action either, based on your response. – Meredith Poor Apr 15 '14 at 19:52
  • @MeredithPoor - That needs to be detailed how she can do that in your answer not in a comment. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 15 '14 at 20:59
  • @Chad - did you read my answer - completely? The tenor of the original post is that someone wants a 'quick fix' - do this and the matter is settled. Working relationships don't get settled with 'quick fixes'. One has to build comfort levels and trust over time. – Meredith Poor Apr 16 '14 at 4:15

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