Scenario Two

You have been promoted to the position of manager of the department. You’ve worked together with most of your direct reports for many years. As a peer, you have had good working relationships with everyone in the area. At least one of your peers also applied for the manager position. Because of the department’s relatively flat organizational structure, employees have not had many opportunities for promotion. Most of the employees have worked in the same area for most of their work history. As you are settling in to your new role, you feel that some of your former peers, Sydney and Alex, are not taking you seriously as the new supervisor. You have given some directions about how you want certain projects handled, only to see some of the staff ignore you and complete the projects in other ways. When you have addressed this, they both have given reasons such as, “The old way is better,” “What’s the big deal?” and “With the equipment we have, we had to do it that way.”

Take a few moments to think about the situation and make some notes. What would you do? What would be your first step?
 

Potential Responses

  1. Do nothing. You imagine it will take time for all staff to get adjusted to you as the supervisor. You decide to let it ride and see what happens. 
  2. Call a meeting, inviting everyone in the department and your own supervisor. Lay down the law about who is in charge. 
  3. Discuss the situation with your boss; come up with a plan to address the issue with the staff involved. Step back from your feelings of frustration. 

Possible outcomes for #1, Do Nothing:

  • Sydney and Alex (and everyone else) see that you accept their behavior. Staff need time to adjust to a new supervisor, particularly when a former peer becomes a supervisor. Doing nothing communicates that you accept their behavior.
  • Sydney and /or Alex step up the behavior; “Time to do it our way.”What was a small problem may turn into a runaway train. Until you address the issue, you are communicating that you accept their behavior.
  • After some time, the Sydney and Alex adjust their behavior and accept your directions. This might happen but most likely it won't.

Considerations:

This most likely will not work. Staff listen to what you say, but then watch what you do. If you do nothing, you have communicated that their behavior is acceptable. The longer you allow this to continue, the harder it will be to establish yourself as an effective supervisor.
 
Please keep exploring the other options.
 

Possible outcomes for #2, Call a meeting, inviting everyone in the department and your own supervisor. Lay down the law about who is in charge:

  • All staff get the message that you are in charge. This is one way to be clear. Is it the best way?
  • Sydney and Alex start avoiding you in office social situations. They might feel hurt or confused. You addressed the issue with everyone, but was it an "everyone" issue? You also brought your boss in, which might embarrass the staff, especially staff that were not involved in the issue.
  • Alex and Sydney get angry. They might feel your approach is heavy-handed, especially if you had not addressed the issue with any of the staff. Now, you may have have more problems asserting your new supervisory status. 

Considerations:

This would be one way to be clear, though it would most likely have a negative impact on your working relationships. Bringing in the “big guns” as a first step is overreacting to this situation. And addressing all staff about a problem that does not apply to everyone will not help you build good working relationships.
 
Please keep exploring the other options.
 

Possible outcomes for #3, Discuss the situation with your boss; come up with a plan to address the issue with the staff involved. Step back from your feelings of frustration: 

  • Sydney and Alex challenge you on the issue. They may not understand the "big deal." When you were in their position, did you take supervisory direction well? Is this a change in your own behavior?
  • Alex and Sydney change their behaviors, but still criticize your choices. Have you explained why you want staff to do things a certain way? Is this a change from past practices?
  • Sydney and Alex see their behaviors are a problem and agree to change. Individually addressing Alex and Sydney and working to make sure they see the problem makes it easier to then work together towards a solution.

Considerations:

There will always be an adjustment period when someone moves into a new role, particularly moving from peer to manager. Set clear boundaries and expectations. Take your time with major changes, especially if not every one is in agreement. Re-learn the lay of the land from your new position. This may be a time to have an “expectations conversation” with each of your employees, outlining what you expect of them and listen to what they expect of you. Acknowledge that things have changed and that dealing with change may feel difficult. A positive working environment is everyone’s responsibility. Be consistent in your actions with all employees. If, after these conversations, staff are still challenging your authority, then you might explain potential consequences of not following directions or bring in your own boss to help address the situation. Also consider developing your supervisory skills. WLD’s Supervisory Leadership Development Program is a good way to learn from other supervisors from across campus.
 
Good choice. What might have happened if you had chosen one of the other options?

 

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