Think strategically to advance despite dismissive manager

Marie G. McIntyre
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Q: My recent promotion has turned into a disaster. About three months ago, I was made an assistant manager at the fast food restaurant where I worked. Almost immediately, I was told that I was being transferred to another location because the manager there needed help. However, “Mark” has made it clear from the beginning that he doesn’t want me around.

Whenever Mark is in the store, he watches me like a hawk. If he has to go out, he checks the camera footage when he returns. Although he is supposed to be helping me learn, Mark refuses to teach me anything about the business. Instead of delegating management tasks, he has me cooking or running the drive-thru.

I want to be a good assistant manager, but Mark is obviously trying to hold me back. All the employees are afraid of him because he often gets angry and makes belittling remarks. I’m beginning to feel that I’ve been set up to fail. Is there anything I can do about this?

A: When you were told Mark “needed help,” you undoubtedly assumed that the store was understaffed. But given his tyrannical management style, this comment might have an entirely different meaning. Mark believing management is auditioning you as his replacement would certainly explain his defensive and territorial behavior.

To manage this situation effectively, you will need to find an outside ally. If you have a trustworthy human resources manager, request a confidential discussion and ask for some guidance in dealing with Mark. But if you feel uneasy about the HR manager’s discretion or judgment, focus instead on your need for a development plan.

As a new assistant manager in an unfamiliar location, you can reasonably solicit HR assistance in conquering the learning curve. That might involve creating specific training goals, reviewing them with Mark, and providing periodic follow-up. Implementing this strategy will not only accelerate your progress, but also ensure that Mark receives some much-needed oversight.

Q: I have a question about the ethics of job searching. I currently work in a small clothing store and would like to pursue other jobs in the fashion industry. Recently, I attended a conference with my boss and met a number of our suppliers. Although I would like to explore opportunities with them, I’m not sure if that would be ethical, considering that my boss invited me to the conference. What do you think about this?

A: While your concern for ethics is truly commendable, it is generally understood that contacts made through work may lead to other opportunities. For that reason, networking with suppliers would not violate any ethical boundaries.

Practically speaking, however, managers often take it personally when they hear that someone may be planning to jump ship. So if you discuss job possibilities with your new acquaintances, ask them to keep those conversations confidential. Should you receive an actual offer which requires a reference check, that would be the time to inform your boss.

Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.”,

Twitter @officecoach.