One of my Colleagues, recently promoted to a team leader position has been putting management's nose out of joint recently by querying silly things.

First off, she queried the company policy re: expenses and claiming back costs for a team "bonding" meal. Understandable, as I feel the query had merit. Unfortunately, whilst I wasn't privy to her conversations with management, I have overheard they were probably not as diplomatic and professional on my colleagues part as they should have been.

Secondly, she queried quite forcefully how to deal with a team member's disappearance, out in the open in our open plan office. Said team-member has recently had some unrelated HR issues and it appears to have been quite complex, resulting in an apparently mutual parting of ways. This underling has essentially been "missing" from the office, and its an open secret that she's left, although not why. This has not been shared with the client, who have been informed that she is on long term sick and that other members of staff are picking up the slack in the meantime. The company seems to be being extra cautious about how her departure is handled.

Whilst I understand my colleague's concerns, she had a very vocal discussion with one of the senior managers about what's going on. Essentially, it boiled down to "This is how it has been decided how it's dealt with, we need to be careful about this", whilst her repeated (loud) argument was "but we're lying to our client" (who, to be fair, have been asking after the team member).

It just so happens there's going to be an announcement re: the team member's departure at a meeting with the client next week, as this is the best time to do so, and this eventually mollified my colleague. She then left for her desk. As I sit close to the senior managers, I was in a position to overhear the discussion which followed - which did not bode well for her.

I feel she's endangering her promotion by acting brashly. I feel she makes a great team leader, and that she would be the best in the role. She'll undoubtedly be on a probationary period, however, and unfortunately for her there are other internal candidates for her role, ones who might be more politically savvy.

How do I clue my colleague in that she needs to smarten up politically, before she really annoys management?

  • 6
    I would tread softly as she may blame the messenger.
    – paparazzo
    Mar 10, 2016 at 17:41
  • 4
    Did she act like this pre-promotion? If so, she might be navigating the politics a lot better than you give her credit for.
    – morsor
    Mar 10, 2016 at 17:44
  • 1
    Also, if she lacks political smarts and is willfully upsetting management, do you really want to give management the impression that you side with her over them?
    – djohnson10
    Mar 10, 2016 at 17:44
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    Thanks for the advice so far :) @Joe Strazzere, I'm a data analyst, so I'm somewhat out of the hierarchy, sitting somewhere below my senior managers, but off to the right of my colleague. I had planned on speaking in generalities rather than saying "X said this, watch out" - taking the approach more that I'm concerned with what I've heard her say. My colleague is a good friend, the sort I've had over for dinner with our respective partners. Morsor - yes, she did, but only with her immediate superior who was, at the time, somewhat more understanding.
    – Miller86
    Mar 11, 2016 at 9:18
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    @Miller86 - That would be my concern though. Given her blunt approach with senior management, what guarantee do you have that management won't find out about your conversation? And if you only speak in generalities, are you really telling her anything she doesn't already know?
    – djohnson10
    Mar 11, 2016 at 18:04

2 Answers 2


What it boils down to is that this person has recently been promoted from the ranks and now feels that she's an equal to the various managers in the office. The implications are what you've described above: she's become rather demanding and loud about what she likes, and doesn't like.

Unfortunately she seems to lack an understanding of the workplace which is so fundamental that it makes me want to shake my head in wonder.

How might you change this? You could try taking her out to lunch and explaining that her recent actions are not the most politically savvy she could have made.

Explain that while she's now a "manager", she is only a low level manager, and that while she will now have access to more privileged information she still needs to tread softly when dealing with those above her.

Doubly unfortunately, your boss seems to be a very self-righteous type of person, and she may not take your advice too well. Idealists never enjoy looking the ugly reality of the world full in the face.

Personally, I think the absolute best thing for you to do is to keep quiet and ride the wave. The reason I say this is because she's unlikely to change her approach, and you don't want her to use your "insider information" that she's stepping on people's toes as evidence that she needs to go on some kind of crusade against the "evil, immoral bosses".

Really, it's her boss's job to take her aside and explain these things to her, not yours. And if they won't do so, then you should be wondering why, and coming to the conclusion that they may have a good reason, and you'd better take their approach.

A fable from my home country:

A dog sits by the side of the road and discusses with a bull that some animals, such as bears, wolves, lions, etc. think too highly of themselves. That those animals are too proud, whereas he himself is a humble, level headed sort, who would have equality in the world. A nearby stray, runt of a dog overhears their conversation and approaches saying that he finds their thinking wonderful. He declares them his brothers. The dog gets very angry:
- Us? Your brothers? Get out of here before we make you regret it.
- But I thought you said ...
- Yes, I want equality, but not with stray mutts.

I always keep this story in mind when dealing with management.

Your team leader should remember that even though she's moved up the ladder there are still many above her who are stronger, and many who are waiting below to claim her spot. She may want "equality", but it's not the way of the world.

  • 2
    TL;DR if she’s not ready for the job, you talking to her isn’t going to make her ready.
    – mxyzplk
    Sep 12, 2021 at 14:33
  • "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others"
    – T. Sar
    Feb 14, 2023 at 12:36

The only way I can realistically see you doing any good in the situation is if you have a good relationship with her boss - you could point out to her boss that you think she makes a great team lead.

Play it by ear - you may be able to hint that she does need a bit of help adjusting to her new position when dealing with upper management. Be careful, though, not to get personally tied up in the situation.

If you're uncertain, have no good way of contacting her boss, or not a good (or any) relationship with them, I'd suggest not to do anything at all. It's not worth the risk to your own position.

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