Jackie is reaching the end of her tether. Once again Andy is moaning. “Your communication is rubbish and you’re not motivating me – and that’s what managers are supposed to do isn’t it, motivate their staff?” Jackie is the first to admit that she still has a lot to learn in her first management role but she is trying her best. Andy is just being difficult. He is probably resentful because they’d been peers before she was promoted. His attitude is affecting the rest of the team and his performance is deteriorating.
Andy is fed up. He’d got on well with Jackie when they were peers in the team but since she’s been promoted things have gone downhill. She’s been dumping extra work on him and then micromanaging. He’s done the job for years and is good at what he does. Jackie should know that better than anyone. And the way she speaks to him - like he is a kid. She doesn’t treat the others like that. If this carries on one of them would have to go.
The Jackie / Andy scenario may be familiar to you. Two team members get on well, then one of them is promoted and suddenly rather than being peers one is managing the other. It’s a natural occurrence in the workplace but one that has potential conflict written all over it. Several cases that I’ve been involved with have a similar scenario. Typically the new working relationship starts off well with everyone ‘being adult’ about it. But fairly soon cracks begin to show and before long we are looking at a relationship conflict that is causing pain and damaging performance.
So what are the people involved in this situation thinking and feeling? It is important to speak to the individuals and explore what is going on beneath the surface as every case has its differences. Let’s say we speak to Jackie and Andy to discover what they are experiencing.
In summary this is a situation ripe for potential conflict. The needs of both are not being met and already performance is starting to suffer. Ideally Jackie and Andy would address it themselves but this requires having a ‘difficult conversation’ and being open about how they are feeling, recognising their own limitations as well as pointing out where they feel aggrieved by the other. If things escalate, they may need the support of Jackie’s manager and / or HR to intervene, perhaps using a DIY Mediation style approach, to nip potential conflict in the bud.
Prevention is better than cure so what could Andy and Jackie do to mitigate the risk of the relationship heading in the wrong direction? Here are a few tips for anyone finding themselves in this kind of scenario:
When Jackie moves from being Andy’s peer to being his boss, conflict is not inevitable, BUT all the ingredients are present for conflict. Managers and HR would do well to recognise this and encourage those involved to follow the tips above. Otherwise, what could have been a strong and productive relationship ends up with Jackie putting Andy through performance management or Andy handing in his notice.
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