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I was recently promoted to a lead position of a sales team with several direct reports under me. My manager also has a team, mainly support staff, who do not report to me.

One of his employees decided to be extremely disrespectful and rude during a morning meeting. She is also a sales rep, but currently cannot be under my supervision because she cannot be an outside sales rep, yet. Her position will report directly to me once her position transitions to full outside sales rep status.

After discussing the confusion of some sales territories my boss and I agreed that all activity reports through our CRM should be sent to both of us by all team members. I announced this at our meeting. The employee decided to question this decision because she doesn't report to me. A perfectly reasonable question. However, her tone and attitude were completely out of line. She also demanded to know what I was writing on my notepad while she was speaking about something unrelated to the new rule. (I have a tendency to be inspired while people are speaking and will write little notes for myself) My boss didn't call her out in the meeting, but the reasons for that go back a long time.

I spoke with my boss after sending him an email insisting he address the situation. He said he would.

The background on her will explain why he didn't address the issue in the heat of the moment. First, she has been allowed to behave this way for the past 2 1/2 years. The previous director (my boss) allowed it to happen and thus a monster was born. She treats most people like this on occasion. Being her friend does not make you immune to her attacks. Second, he has spoken to her about her attitude in the past, with some meetings including HR. Third, I think he was a bit shocked. And finally, her daughter recently passed.

I know my boss will address this further. My question is more about how do I address this with my team? If at all. I'm literally starting week number 2 as their boss.

Thanks in advance for the advice. Please forgive any typos, I'm on my iPad and not wearing my contacts.

Edit/mini update: First, thank you all again for your comments and suggestions. We've had a crazy week with my boss having to take time for doctors appointments at the drop of a hat and I have a cold and two new reps being out at a week long training.

We had our regular meeting this morning with our typical updates from all team members. When we reached our angry bird she tried bringing up some issues that should only be discussed in private. When our boss (very calmly) told her they could meet after the meeting to discuss those issues she started down the rude toned path she so often takes. He became more firm and it was obvious she wasn't happy having to wait for her issue to be resolved. Hopefully he got the point across, though I really think she may be beyond coachable at this point.

I had more than one team member, both my direct reports and other team members, approach me about her. I was complemented for keeping my cool and not arguing with her last week and was also asked if the situation was being dealt with. I spoke only to what I knew and kept my mouth shut on the maybes and what ifs. One employee who has been with the company more than a decade, and seems to be the only person our angry bird trusts, told me she doesn't see the situation changing.

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    "how do I address this with my team?" What are you looking to address? Ideally you'd have spoken up during the meeting and noted that you didn't appreciate her tone (though that takes some skill to pull off if it's not obvious that the other person is the one over the line). But why do you think you need to do something about this with your team? – Lilienthal Oct 10 '16 at 9:02
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    "You don't" is not a possible response. Your team noticed the behavior. Silence is silent acceptance of this behavior. They'll notice this as well. The team doesn't need to know exactly what the response is, but they should know that the act is unacceptable and will be handled in private. – MSalters Oct 10 '16 at 13:16
  • The first port of call should have been her directly, in private. If not resolved then and only then take it to your boss. When someone is being an arse, do not rise to it. Everyone can see she was in the wrong here. A great get out line is "I will discuss that with you further after this meeting in private, but for now I just wanted to say...." and continue with business as normal. With the team you do not belittle or chastise the person in any way, just explain objectively the way you expect people to communicate with each other and you. – PaulD Oct 10 '16 at 15:54
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    If this has been going on for 2.5 years, there are two likely resolutions. Either a) she is good enough at her job that you deal with it like you have been, or b) you don't mind losing her and you push her to change this behavior, resulting in you firing her or her quitting if it is not well accepted. Option c) "she magically becomes nice" probably won't happen unless she is either incompentent/unconfident/(insert crazy circumstance) enough that she is afraid to lose/leave her job. – Kik Oct 10 '16 at 18:13
  • Thank you all for your responses. I didn't jump on her in the moment because she isn't my direct report, she reports to the same person I do. He rarely calls out bad behavior in the moment, that is his prerogative. I would have responded to her nasty tone if I felt it was my place. I did respond to her demands to know what I was writing on my notepad. – Andieisme Oct 10 '16 at 19:47
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What happened, although in a public forum, will be addressed privately by your boss. As I see it, you have a couple of options.

  1. Ignore it. If someone brings it up just say that you've referred the matter to her manager
  2. Address it head on. In your next meeting, apologise for the disruption to the previous meeting and assure everyone that it will be addressed. Encourage them to let you know if they receive the same treatment.

Things you should not do

  1. Laugh about it with your team. This will cause issues when she transitions to your team.
  2. Discuss the outcomes of any discussions she has with her boss.
  3. Let it get to you. When she moves to your team, ensure you both have a clean slate (but remain aware)

When she does join your team, make sure you make her aware of your expectations. Explain to her about the note-taking that you do and put her mind at ease.

  • Good point about the laughing part. If she does become an outside sales rep and would report to me I need everyone to know she has as much respect as I give to them. – Andieisme Oct 10 '16 at 20:00
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You should deal with these things straight away and save your boss the headaches normally. As any sort of leader you need to stand up for yourself and your team to be taken seriously.

But since you didn't it's best to quietly await the outcome. It's a bit late in the day to be jumping around making a noise about it.

  • I would agree if my boss hadn't been sitting next to me. His emploee, his job to tell her to chill out when she's in a conversation with him. – Andieisme Oct 10 '16 at 20:02
  • If you won't stand up for yourself, don't expect others to, this would look like a sign of weakness to me and I'd rethink giving you a leadership role. As it happened the boss DIDN'T tell anyone to chill out. – Kilisi Oct 11 '16 at 0:02
  • I won't argue the point of standing up for myself. You aren't getting the gist of what happened, and I can tell no matter what I respond with you'll have a "better" way I should have handled it. Standing up for myself is not a problem. My bosses boss however, has issues with public escalations. – Andieisme Oct 12 '16 at 8:56
  • well, here you are on the internet with an unresolved issue that you could have sorted out straight away in a few seconds... my methods are different, maybe not better, but definitely quicker. – Kilisi Oct 12 '16 at 9:26
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    True, and I did address your question. I don't think you should do anything, the time for action has passed. And yes if someone was badmouthing me in front of me, I'd put them in their place. I think you should develop strategies to cope with these sorts of issues in the first instance in future. But that's totally up to you. – Kilisi Oct 12 '16 at 9:44
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Congratulations on your new role. Welcome to the next level. Lots of extra responsibility.

To answer the question you asked - How do I address this with my team? I don't see that this has anything to do with them. You should keep it that way. This is between you, her and your shared boss if it simply MUST be addressed now (which I don't see either - she has been like this for 2 years and now she has a VERY good reason. Try to empathize with her enormous loss and remember you are under extra scrutiny in your new position). Your team looks to you to be the strong one - unruffled by normal business stresses. The last thing they need is for your problems to become problems for the team.

JohnHC's advice is wonderful. The time a good manager is justified in pushing back publicly is when someone on her team is unfairly attacked, but not when she herself is questioned. A person who is comfortable with their authority doesn't buckle when it's challenged, they know that they can justify their decisions. Conflict at work is always best handled with as little drama as possible. This is not about making her pay. You've got a bigger problem. You need to minimize damage to your reputation at work. Right now, she has a bad reputation, don't join her. You hint that you might someday become her manager - if you want that power, then you must show that you can minimize the effects of her disruptive outbursts (that's you, not your boss). De-escalate. Handle it in private. Wait until you are calm to talk with her.

If your note-taking disturbs her, you should share with her generally what is in your notes. If you cannot do that without making her more angry, then she is quite justified in being upset with your note-taking. Wait until you are alone to write down the details of the conflict. And definitely wait until you are calm to share them with anyone else. It's a basic rule of business - Don't make your bosses job harder.

  • My question about how to address the issue, if I do directly, has more to do with their witnessing the whole thing. This was the first time two employees, one my direct report the other not, experienced her attitude. The others are "used" to the outbursts. However, everyone being used to her actions doesn't make those actions OK for her to behave that way. I told her the note was not about what she was speaking about and that she had reminded me of something. Her demand to know was more about her paranoia than it was about me writing something on a notepad. Thanks for the feedback. – Andieisme Oct 12 '16 at 9:06

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