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New Job Position Leads to Resentment – How to Positively Navigate Your Way Through Sour Work Relationships

In my new supervisory position, I will be managing two people who may already resent me.  “Grace” worked with my predecessor for twenty years and says they are best friends.  “Becky” applied for the job, but was not selected.  Fortunately, the third employee is a recent hire who seems perfectly happy.  How can I get off to a good start with this group?

Marie’s Answer

Anticipating resistance is the first step towards reducing it, so your sensitivity to these issues puts you ahead of the game.  Many newly-promoted managers immediately dive into the work without taking time to build relationships.  However, a few hours spent in group and individual meetings can result in a much smoother transition.

To begin making connections, gather your team for a get-acquainted session.  Tell them about your work history and your reasons for choosing this job, then share any personal details which seem appropriate.  Give them a chance to ask questions and provide some information about themselves.

If you’re new to the organization, you might also ask your staff about the company culture and the history of this group.  Remember that your goal is simply to learn, so listen to their comments without making judgmental remarks.

Before adjourning, explain that you plan to meet with them individually to learn about their work, ask for suggestions, and discuss any concerns.  Then schedule those sessions as quickly as possible.  These one-on-ones will also provide an opportunity to raise touchy issues without too much fanfare.

For example: “Becky, I understand that you were also interested in the supervisory position, so I hope you aren’t too disappointed.  I’m looking forward to our working together, and I would like to hear any ideas you may have.”

With the one who lost her “best friend”, you can begin to help her adjust: “Grace, I know that you worked with Mary for many years, so I’m sure this change is somewhat difficult.  I will probably do some things differently than she did, but I wondered if you had any particular concerns?”

Of course, these initial conversations are only a first step.  But investing time in getting to know the staff can go a long way towards preventing future problems.