Before we begin, I'd like to say 3 things:

  1. I understand that respect is earned, not bought
  2. I'm in Bali, the work culture may very well be different
  3. I'm not a foreigner relative to my workplace

So here's the problem: I'm originally brought in as non-management person, but now I'm being promoted to management. The employees don't respect me enough to do what I say, which is a problem because I need to control our product quality which is going down a bit, we're risking losing customers.

They're giving me excuses which they didn't give to the previous manager (she's promoted). It's not a problem so long as the previous manager is available to go down and talk to them directly, but this isn't healthy in the long run. In fact, I believe that a certain employee thinks he can push me around, he kept making statements that implies he doesn't agree with me and won't do what I say. At some point he asserted that he will not work overtime no matter what happens. This did happen with the previous manager but at least he'd listen to her for other things.

I don't have "friends" per se that can help me to bridge the gap. I'm not sure what to do, trying to threaten them with previous manager will only destroy any legitimacy I should have, and if something dire happens when she's not around I won't be able to do anything. Trying to iron fist this will not work if they won't do what I say anyway, and will only bring more problems like pushing them to revolt.

I will say honestly that I'm not exactly amazing with arguing. I couldn't come up with good comebacks quickly enough (not witty one liners, I mean actual arguments for discussion) which shuts me down quickly. I believe this is one of the factors that put me in this situation.

What can I do at this point?

  • 1
    Remind (typo fixed) them that you are the one who will be evaluating their performance. They are welcome to present alternatives, but in the end they need to do what the company needs them to do, or the company does not need them – keshlam Oct 17 '16 at 21:35
  • Fire the most bolshy of them - pour encourager les autres – Mawg says reinstate Monica Oct 18 '16 at 9:47

You are in management and your job is to manage. So do so. The employee you mentioned in your questions needs to realize you have the authority over the group, which includes himself. Try to have a private talk with him and discuss the following:

  1. You are the manager and him listening to you (assuming your guidance is reasonable) is in his best interests if he is interested in developing at his current job.

  2. It is fine if he disagrees with your opinion and open discussion is welcome. However, overt insubordination is not acceptable.

I will say honestly that I'm not exactly amazing with arguing. I couldn't come up with good comebacks quickly enough

You should not be arguing, but rather establish a rational explanation as to why your direction / guidance/ desires is beneficial to the employees, and to the company. Immediate retorts is not your goal, so don't try establish authority with such tactics. You would only gain a reputation as someone with a hot head, and who can't think deliberately, and calmly.

  • 4
    Managing people is a learned skill, not usually something you just "do". If you want strategies relevant to your job ask your manager for some mentoring and guidance. If you are allowed to issue verbal and written warnings, do it. Don't just start handing out reprimands like candy, be specific and use exactly how you explained it in your question to us, the drop in quality is causing the company to lose customers. This is not acceptable and improvement is expected. – Andieisme Oct 17 '16 at 5:40

You don't argue with underlings, you discuss or you discipline.

Find out what disciplinary action you can take and make an example of someone (pour encourager les autres).

This is part of being a manager, one of the most important parts of the role. Everyone needs to respect you or you're not managing anything except showing up each morning.

  • 9
    Just keep in mind that fear-based respect is the lowest form of respect. It should be a starting point, not a goal. – Erik Oct 17 '16 at 8:41
  • 4
    As Niccolo Machiavelli wrote, one should be both feared and loved, but if one must chose between the two, it is better to be feared than loved. – Old_Lamplighter Oct 17 '16 at 13:38
  • 1
    @Erik Aristotle died over 2,000 years ago and is still relevant. Times change, people don't. – Old_Lamplighter Oct 17 '16 at 14:00
  • 1
    @erik, a Prince, not a king. The advice is to be loved and feared, not to be a tyrant. A manager who is fair, consistent, honest, who corrects when necessary and handles difficult situations swiftly and if necessary, harshly, will be loved and respected. That is the ideal situation. However, if one cannot be both. Being a nice guy will not get results, being tough will. Basic human nature, which has not changed since we came down out of the trees – Old_Lamplighter Oct 17 '16 at 14:49
  • 2
    @Erik, again, the point is not to act tough. The ideal is to be "fair but firm". That's what Machiavelli meant. Failing to meet that Ideal, a strict leader will be more effective than one who tries to be nice. I had a boss who embodied this. He was very nice, would go to the mat for his people, fought like hell against layoffs, but if you lied to him, you were dead meat. You could make a mistake, but if you tried to cover it up, you were out. We loved him, but we know not to step out of line. Does that clarify? – Old_Lamplighter Oct 17 '16 at 15:59

It's a common noob mistake to think that the people reporting to you have to do anything you say, ever. The worst you can do is fire them, and then where are you? They don't care about your job and what you need, any more than you care about the needs of a stranger living 3 blocks away. Sure, you don't wish that stranger any harm, but their specific needs don't often enter into your thoughts.

There is a long literature by successful people that discusses how to motivate people to act on behalf of the project, and to take ownership of the team's success. Brow-beating, threats, intimidation, and fear aren't ranked highly in those books for a reason. Welcome to management, start reading!

  • 4
    When I was a project manager, I would send emails thanking people for specific things they did and CCd their boss. When I had a problem, I'd call them up and discuss it privately with them with no paper trail. Treat people like that and you get loyalty. – Old_Lamplighter Oct 17 '16 at 16:02

It's not about respect, per se. It is about legitimacy

To your people, you are a manager in name only. You have to act the part now.

You need to establish policies, procedures, and discipline.

Document everything, set goals and expectations and hold people to them.

Then there are all the standards for management such as "Praise in public, reprimand in private".

You've got the part, not it's time to play it.

When someone meets goals, reward them. If they do not, bring them into your office and tell them exactly what is wrong with what they are doing. If it happens a second time, write up a disciplinary form documenting the repeat offense. Put it in their file.

Be clear, be consistant, be fair, and be swift. Address issues the moment you see them, both positive and negative.

Your answer to any excuse is always, "Why didn't you bring this to my attention sooner." As I told one of my reports, "Let me know about everything, if it's before a deadline, you're being diligent by raising concerns, after a deadline, you are only making excuses, and I don't accept excuses"

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