Q. In my new supervisory position, I will be managing two people who may already resent me. “Grace” worked with my predecessor for 20 years and says they are best friends. “Becky” applied for the job that was given to me. Fortunately, the third employee is a recent hire who seems perfectly happy. How can I get off to a good start with this group?
A. Anticipating resistance is the first step toward 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 that 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.
Q. My manager likes to discuss our performance reviews before he fills out the official evaluation form. During our conversation, his feedback was all very positive, with no negative comments. However, on my written review, I was shocked to find a below-average rating for communication skills. Why would he praise me to my face and then criticize me on the form?
A. Your boss clearly took the coward’s way out, delivering the good news in person and the bad news in writing. On top of that, he saved up his critical comments for the review instead of addressing issues when they occurred. Performance feedback should always be given in real time.
But despite his mishandling of the process, there are apparently some issues which you need to address. So put aside your understandable irritation and ask how you might improve your communication skills. To circumvent this appraisal maneuver in the future, periodically request some constructive feedback from your gutless manager.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.”