managing a team that resents you

A reader writes:

My manager recently announced that she had been promoted to become a director, and that her position (our department manager) was vacant and that senior management would really like to see someone from our team fill that position. I was excited at the opportunity, and of course applied (as did most people in my department). Well, despite being the newest and youngest person, I got the job (yay!) but now everyone hates me. Everyone offered me forced congratulations, but these congratulations were often accompanied by things like “Congrats! I’m so happy for you. I guess experience wasn’t much of a factor since I’ve been here five years longer.” Or “Congratulations! You’re the first boss I’ve had that’s younger than me.” I should mention that opportunites like this are becoming rarer and rarer as our industry is outsourcing more and more.

I know the reason I got the job is because I have a strong background in media and technology, and our company is currently undergoing changes to have our media and technology products at the forefront of our product offerings. I’ve worked on some very complicated projects and senior management felt that the type of work I’m doing is the type of work they want to see, so they thought I should lead the team through these changes. I have been with the industry for five years, so it’s not like I’m coming in without any experience. Some of my new reports have been in the industry 15+ years but are very accustomed and tied to the old way of doing things. In other words, they hate change.

It’s very frustrating to lead a team that doesn’t have a lot of faith in me. I’m great at my job, but management is new to me. I have asked my old boss for some advice, but I don’t want to make her think I can’t handle this. My strategy is to continue to excel in my work, hoping to lead by example. What I can’t get rid of are snide comments and “helpful” advice. For example, I handed out a batch of project assignments and everyone made comments like “Wow, you gave this one to John. Anyone can see that Bob should be doing this.” I told them I’ve been assigning projects based on the skills people have, as well as the skills people need to develop. The fact is, I am their direct boss and speaking to me in this way is so inappropriate. However, I’m trying to be sensitive that they are all upset they were passed over for this promotion.

I’ve arranged group outings, training days, lunches, and no one is warming up. I think what it comes down to is they all think that they each deserved the job, and they are waiting for me to fail. What would you do?

You’re being too soft.

When you have a team actively trying to undermine you, group outings and lunches and trying to be sensitive to their pain isn’t the way to go.  Instead, you need to tackle this head on: Be direct and assertive about your expectations and when people are crossing the line — or the problems will likely deepen and become more intractable. When people behave inappropriately and you respond by trying to cajole, convince, or charm them into changing their behavior, you signal that they can get away with more of it. You are the manager, and you’re going to need to manage — and right now, they’re apparently counting on you not to.

That means that you need to be very clear with people when their behavior doesn’t meet your standards, and you need to be willing to set and enforce consequences if it doesn’t change. In practice, that means that when someone makes a snide comment about a decision you made, you meet with them privately immediately afterwards and make it clear it’s not acceptable. For instance, in the example you gave, calmly say, “I’d be glad to explain why I assigned that to John, but I’m getting the sense that you’re skeptical of my decisions in general. What’s going on?”  Listen with an open mind and then respond that you’ll take it into account but that you’re going to be making lots of decisions, and that you expect that they won’t push back on each one. Say that if they have a big-picture concern, you encourage them to take it up with you, but that in general you expect them to focus on their work and handle things professionally (and privately) if there’s an issue to discuss.

Then, if it happens again, you address it immediately again: “Jane, we’ve talked about this before and it’s continuing to happen. I value your work, but I need someone in your role who will be a positive presence on the team, raise concerns in a professional manner, and not cause tension. I’d like you to think about whether that’s something you’re willing to do in this new context. I hope that you will, although if you decide this isn’t for you, I’ll support you in that decision. But I want to make it very clear that what you’ve been doing can’t continue.” And then you need to be willing to follow through on that.

In other words, warn once, warn a second time with consequences if it continues, and then follow through on those consequences if needed.

You also need to talk to your own manager about what’s going on and your plan for handling it so that she’s in the loop and isn’t blindsided if you end up needing to replace some of these people. Explain to her that you’re encountering resistance from people who seem resentful that they didn’t get the job themselves, and that you intend to address the behavior directly and be clear about what behavior isn’t appropriate, and that you want to give her a heads-up that you might need to make changes on the team if the problems continue after warnings.

However, in order to do all this effectively, you have to be managing well in other areas too. And since you’re a first-time manager, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if you’re not quite there yet. So make sure that you’re really educating yourself on how to manage well — how to set goals and hold people accountable to them, how to delegate effectively, how to give feedback, how to establish a culture that’s both positive and rigorous about results, how to ensure people feel heard but also understand that you’re the final decision-maker, and so forth. That stuff is essential, both as a backdrop to taking on the attitude issues on your team and in terms of managing in general. And certainly for having your boss’s support.

Here are a whole bunch of posts that might help:

new managers and authority

asserting authority with bullying employees

what should a new manager ask to get to know employees better? (this might be helpful to do as a positive measure at the same time that you’re laying down the law)

how to give feedback

the most important advice for new managers

how to fire an employee with a bad attitude

when you’re younger than everyone you’re managing

{ 61 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    One more resource: Becoming a Manager, by Linda Hill, is a great book that follows first-time managers and discusses the style adjustments they make to manage effectively.

  2. Juni*

    Your new favorite phrase: “Be that as it may…” Use liberally! It is an idiom that acknowledges the validity of the concern of the commenter, but moves the conversation along to where you necessarily need to steer it.

    “Be that as it may, I’ve made these assignments with our organizational priorities in mind. Please let me know if you feel you are unable to meet your own assignments.”

    “Be that as it may, this deadline reflects when I need your finished product by. If you cannot meet the deadline, please let me know right away and we will discuss how to balance your priorities with the necessary outputs of the team.”

    1. Anon.*

      “Be that as it may…” I have been working in a new job since mid-May. There is the agency owner, his brother, and me. There were red flags on the 2 long interviews but I needed a job and it seemed like a good opportunity… within a few days it became painfully obvious that this is a very bad situation for me. I am not a therapist, a wife, girlfriend, daughter or friend and yet I have been put in all of these positions.. I have tried to set boundries – and then have realized I shouldn’t have to set boundries – they should already be there because this is professional setting. I have taken to responding in a very neutral tone as I am needed to tackle some very, very unprofessional behaviour from both on an hourly basis. I will be utilizing this phrase, “Be that as it may…”, liberally in the days to come.

  3. Wilton Businessman*

    Why, oh, why do people think they have to be nice to be a manager? You are the boss, manage.

    1. KellyK*

      I think people confuse “assertive” with “mean.” It’s not mean to tell employees what you need them to do; it’s part of the job. (Obviously there are mean or obnoxious *ways* you could tell them.)

    2. Vicki*

      I’ve had very few managers who think this. Generally, they think they need to be an overbearing, pushy, micromanaging terror. :/

      The OP however, is in an odd position. She used to be a co-worker. When she was a co-worker, these people were her friends. Now she’s the manager and they are not her friends. Nasty business all around.

      The senior management screwed up here.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I wouldn’t say they screwed up. It’s good to promote people from within and let them develop while staying with your company, rather than making them have to leave if they want to progress. However, it’s possible that they should have sent stronger signals to the coworkers about their support for the new manager (or maybe they have).

  4. ruby*

    I was in pretty much the same position early in my career – and wish I had a resource like this site back then (there was no Internet back then, the dark ages…). All very good advice that you got, one thing I would stress is making sure your boss is in synch with how you are approaching this. If you decide to take a more hard line approach, I’d give her a head’s up first because it’s possible that if people riled up about your new, firmer, approach, they will go over your head to complain. It’s vitial that a) she not be surprised if that happens and b) that she completely support you if she is approached. If they go to her and she’s not 100% behind you, your life will get exponentially more difficult.

  5. BCW*

    So nothing against the OP, but I have to wonder if she is being as nice and things as she things she is. In my experience, when people are promoted and are now managing their former friends/co-workers, they tend to be overly assertive, as to show that they are the boss now. Again, she may not be doing this, but this exact thing happened at my last job.

    A supervisor quit and they opened the position to people who were there as well as outside people. I had no desire for this position, so trust me, it wasn’t jealousy. In fact, I was genuinely happy for her because in previous years, we got along great. I thought since she knew how pointless and stupid some of the tasks, deadlines, etc were that we were given were that she would now make some positive changes. It was the complete opposite.

    She started immediately turning on people who had been there a while, myself included. She clearly was trying to assert her dominance on us, however the new hires she was very nice to, almost as if to just get them on her side. She became that person who complained about stuff when she was in the trenches and knew how bad it was, then all of that prior experience seemed to go out the window and she was worse than the previous person. Needless to say, many of us who got along great with her before she was a manager really didn’t like her afterwards.

    So while this may not be the exact case for the OP, maybe a basic conversation with them as to how you feel and how they feel could be eye opening. Its possible, as AAM said, that you really aren’t doing a good job managing people. Maybe they have other issues that arent just about them being jealous that you got the position over them. I know you are the manager and as people like to say its not your way or the highway, but if these people are good at their jobs, maybe its worth having an honest conversation so you can keep a good team around.

    1. jmkenrick*

      “She became that person who complained about stuff when she was in the trenches and knew how bad it was, then all of that prior experience seemed to go out the window and she was worse than the previous person.”

      I think this also indicates that if you have a desire to be a manager, it helps to pay attention to how you act to your coworkers before you receive that promotion.

      To clarify: I have a few coworkers whom I love, but would never want to work under, partially because, as my peer, I’ve heard them gossip and complain about other employees, or get annoyed at company policies. While that’s totally fine, if any of them got promoted, I would know that they find Randy annoying, or think Jane talks too much in meetings, or think our dress code is unnecessary.

      Coworkers often gossip about this stuff, but it’s totally inappropriate for managers to do so.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      “In my experience, when people are promoted and are now managing their former friends/co-workers, they tend to be overly assertive, as to show that they are the boss now.”

      It actually tends to be that or the other extreme — not being assertive enough because they have trouble navigating the switch from peer to boss.

      It’s very hard for people to get the balance right when they first become a manager, and it’s extra hard when you’re managing people who used to be your peers.

      1. BCW*

        Fair enough. I’ve only experienced that twice, and both times the people who were promoted went really far the other way. But I can see how overall its usually not assertive enough

        1. C.*

          I’ve actually been witness to both of those extremes, fortunately I have moved on to a different group in my company with an excellent manager who I hope to emulate one day when my time comes to lead a team. But in my old group our manager had moved on and up and her position was now being interviewed for, one of the guys from our group got the promotion, he was a nice guy who was great as his non-management job but he was just not able to manage his former peers. He was just way too nice and wishy washy, unable to make any real decisions or give out any solid directives for fear of upsetting someone he used to sit next to in the cube farm. He proved to be so ineffective that he was eventually demoted and transferred to another department. They then promoted another member of our team to the position, I think she was so worried about the same thing happing to her as did her predecessor that she went in the complete opposite direction. Lording her new authority and power over us with the most hard lined approach. Work became a daily gantlet of us trying to get our jobs done while scuttling around the office like frightened worker ants trying not to get squashed under her feet if we lingered too long in the light. It wanst for me and I moved on. As far as I know she’s still there. I have not had the chance to manage yet, but I can understand how it must be so difficult to navigate the change from peer to boss in a successful manner. So I don’t think I can blame either of them.

  6. Jamie*

    “She became that person who complained about stuff when she was in the trenches and knew how bad it was, then all of that prior experience seemed to go out the window and she was worse than the previous person”

    That could very well be because it’s easy to complain about how pointless or stupid something is, until it becomes your problem and you have additional information about why it’s critical or why even though it’s still stupid and pointless it’s a sacred unicorn to the powers that be and needs to be carried out.

    It’s especially hard in the second instance, because I’m a big fan of explaining why something needs to be done. If the answer is “just because” that’s harder to roll out to other people.

    And some of it is that the dynamic is different, at first, between former co-workers and new hires. New hires came in with the manager-report dynamic – it’s much easier to be comfortable around them. Changing the relationship from being peers and putting some distance there can be tough for some people and it can come off badly.

    1. BCW*

      I get what you are saying, and trust me, I could’ve gone on a lot longer than I did about the bad things she did. And as I said, it wasn’t just me that had a problem with her. Many of the people she previously worked with had an issue, and none of us wanted that job. I mean as good as she was at her original job, which I will admit, she was great, she sucked as a supervisor.

      My only point was to show the OP that there are varioius reasons for them being unpleasant, so to assume its because they are jealous may be a mistake. I really think a simple, direct, adult conversation could work. Something to the effect of (in private) “You seem to have an issue with a lot of the decisions I make, but I didn’t notice this when Jane was the manager. Can we discuss why this is?” Now I’m not saying she needs to change to fit each person, but sometimes just understanding where someone is coming from can diffuse a bad situation.

      1. Data Monkey*

        The OP said that most people in his/her dept applied for the job. This changes the dynamic a lot as I am sure a couple of them were disappointed that they didn’t receive the job. In your case, no one else applied for the job except the peer that got it.

        I don’t know if they are *jealous*– people tend to use that word a lot, but they are probably disappointed and maybe they don’t understand why *they* didn’t receive the job. It definitely doesn’t justify the behavior that the OP describes.

        I feel like you would open up a can of worms to ask them why they are behaving the way they are behaving. Does it matter? Maybe it helps you to understand it (I guess), but the bottom line is it needs to stop or they need to leave. In my view point, talking about why they are behaving unprofessionally won’t matter much to me (if I was their manager).

  7. Jamie*

    ” My strategy is to continue to excel in my work, hoping to lead by example.”

    The problem is your work now consists of managing people – it doesn’t matter how well you perform other tasks, this is a new part of your job which needs to be learned and performed properly as well. There is no such thing as managing by example.

    And I know Alison covered everything in her reply, but I can’t help myself. The lunches and outings? Stop it. People who, for whatever reason, are having a non-so-great time at work right now really don’t want you insisting they give up their lunch hours and time to spend even more time with you which isn’t work related. That is just a recipe for making it worse.

    If I were you I would look back through your own career and (hopefully) someone at your company whose management skills you admire and try to internalize the traits that made them so good.

    And remember it’s a process. I’ve never known anyone who was a great manager right off the bat. Some better than others, to be sure, but not great. Some things you just need to learn in the trenches and that’s what makes you great.

    1. fposte*

      “The lunches and outings? Stop it.”

      Oh, yes. Especially since they seem to be a substitute for telling people what you want and expect. It’ll be a lot less time consuming just to tell people. I think one of the most common hurdles for new managers (I know it was–and still is–for me) is figuring out that you can’t just silently expect people to behave as you wish.

      And while I don’t mean this in a hypercompetitive dog-eat-dog way, there’s a dog-pack element to human hierarchies sometimes. If you’re supposed to be alpha/manager, it can make the rest anxious and unsettled if you’re not confident in your role. Somebody’s supposed to be running the place, and if it’s not you, they’ll decide who else it is.

      1. Jamie*

        “I think one of the most common hurdles for new managers (I know it was–and still is–for me) is figuring out that you can’t just silently expect people to behave as you wish.”

        However, if you ever figure out how to do this please let me know.

        I have been trying for years to silently try to get people to behave as I wish – so if someone comes up with a way to make this possible I’m all in.

        1. jmkenrick*

          For some reason, this brings to mind memories of me as a child, trying my hardest to make pens move by with my mind after reading “Matilda.”

        2. fposte*

          It only works to keep bowling balls out of the gutter, and you have to wave your hands just right.

    2. Charles*

      “The problem is your work now consists of managing people – it doesn’t matter how well you perform other tasks, this is a new part of your job which needs to be learned and performed properly as well. There is no such thing as managing by example.”

      This. Double this!

      OP, you are now a manager, the skills that you used as a member of the team are good, but they are not the skills that you will need to lead your staff.

      I must bore folks to death here by yammering on and on about training; but, this is something that is often overlooked – very few managers are actually trained on how to manage.

      So, OP, you will need to educate yourself on how to be a good manager. Reaching out to AAM was a good first step; and, I’m sure, that you know it won’t be your last step on how to be a good manager. Read Alison’s book (and others mentioned here)!

      P.S. Most of my jobs I am brought in as a trainer. I have often had folks approach me to say “I applied for your job” (while pointing their fingers into my chest!) “but, they brought in someone from outside who doesn’t know how we work.”

      For whatever it’s worth, in most cases the folks who have pulled that stunt never last more than 6 months, one actually lasted a year. Upper management made the right decision in not hiring any of them for the trainer position. Keep that in mind when any of the folks give you a really hard time – there is a clear reason why they didn’t get the job – and if their bad attitude continues they are confirming that upper management made the right decision.

  8. Blue Dog*

    I think the best things you can do as a manager is to have clear goals, be direct, be consistent, and never lie to your people. However, of all of these, I think being direct is the biggest key.

    This is a hard skill set to learn. If someone is habitually 15 minutes late, there are various ways that new managers tend to deal with it: (1) ignore it; (2) try to make a joke about it; or (3) passive aggressive statements (“Look who rolled in”). It is the rare new manager who can actually go to a former colleague and handle it directly.

    I also think it would also be fair to point out that when senior management appointed you, they indicated that they wanted to leave in tack what was working and to go ahead and try some new things as long as the hood was up. This will give you some credibility and make it look like these are not YOUR petty issues.

    You might also consider inviting their thoughts. (You should probably do this privately so that it doesn’t devolve into a bitch session.) Getting them to buy into the fact that you are all pulling in the same direction is key.

    1. Catherine*

      Absolutely do it privately! People are braver in groups and will feed off each other.

  9. Argh!*

    This post came in great timing for me. I am the youngest person at my company, and I’m good at what I do. My field is project based, and clients want me to lead their projects because I have a proven track record. However, this means I end up managing people who have 10 to 15 years of experience on me, and it is always a battle from the beginning, especially with other women in my male dominated field. It has actually really rattled my faith in people. The tips in this response help, thanks!

  10. Anonymous*

    The fact of the matter is that there will always be people who will whine and complain that they should have been promoted, for any number of reasons, and some of those reasons may even be valid. But the bottom line is that upper management chose the person that they thought would be best for the job, and they need to stop the back talking and snide comments and just focus on doing their own job. IMO they are acting childish, like a spoiled kid who didn’t get their way.

    Within my own company I have witnessed people getting passed over for promotions. The main reason they are passed over is because of their bad attitudes, and they usually have been a disciplinary problem once or twice. Just because someone has more years in with a company, it does not automatically mean they will be a better boss.

    Just my $.02.

  11. Danni*

    I have two jobs right now (totally different fields) and I’ve thought a LOT about what it means to have a good manager/boss.

    1. I think it depends on the company culture. The OP mentioned that her company is undergoing changes – maybe this is at the root of the problem, not you.

    2. “Skills people need to develop” – are you providing the tools and resources for people to learn these skills? Or are you dishing out assignments that genuinely make no sense to give to certain people? At one of my jobs, I had expressed interest in programming. My work is (or was) very much oriented around training and tutorials and providing tools for people to learn and progress in the field, so my request to be involved more in the team was perfectly common. Unfortunately what happened is that I was stuck on a team and given NO resources. You can’t force someone to do a task or project that they aren’t trained to do and then don’t give them the extra time or resources they need to learn. I never completed my assignments and was constantly silent and miserable in meetings because despite my frequent attempts to discuss it, the manager just never addressed the nonsensical assignments. If the company is going in a new direction and your employees are used to the ‘old’ way of doing things, they may genuinely be struggling with what you’re suggesting.

    3. Just because people don’t like what you’re doing doesn’t mean they are jealous. They may actually have good reason to think that experience would make a difference. I have no desire to be a manager at my current job, but that doesn’t mean I can’t recognize a shoddy manager when I see one.

    4. Re: speaking to you in an inappropriate way. You say that it’s inappropriate just because you are their manager…why is that? Just because you are higher in line doesn’t mean you automatically command respect. You seem more offended that they aren’t taking you seriously as “boss” than you are in considering how YOU are performing. Of course they shouldn’t be disrespectful but you don’t get an automatic free pass because you are the boss. If you are younger and more inexperienced than everyone else AND a crappy manager, then you don’t get the luxury of demanding respect.

    Overall, I am more inclined to be on the employee side. Decent, hardworking and overall good employees do not suddenly become disrespectful and snide to someone if that someone is genuinely deserving of the position (of course there are exceptions). People can sense insecurity or bad management skills a mile away and it is going to cause them to not care what you have to say.

    1. Anon2*

      “Congrats! I’m so happy for you. I guess experience wasn’t much of a factor since I’ve been here five years longer.”

      This is clearly disrespectful – whether she’s their boss or not. If someone said this to me, I would be just irritated. That isn’t even subtle, it’s a boldly back-handed compliment. If that’s a mild example of some of the employees comments/behaviors then I’m going to say that’s just disrespectful.

      1. AMG*

        Oh, yes, formerly decent, hardworking people do suddenly become snide out of the blue–starting the moment the promotion is announced, all the way through the screaming temper fit into the parking lot. I don’t know how much is the norm versus the exception, but jealousy is an ugly monster, and this job market exaggerates it. And I tend to believe it happens pretty frequently.

        1. Piper*

          Word. Jealousy is a horrible thing and has ruined many a marriage, friendship, and careers. Formerly normal people turn into monsters if they allow jealousy to consume them.

        2. Danni*

          Oh of course! I was just being devil’s advocate. I don’t believe that jealousy is never the issue, but sometimes I think people jump to jealousy because they don’t want to deal with the real problem (which might be themselves).

          Anyway, yes, I do agree that the comments sound like jealousy and cattiness. Just wanted to offer a possible alternative!

          1. Anon2*

            Ohhh, yes. LOL That is definitely true and you never know, the situation may be some of both. Based on those comments, I’d say it was more her new subordinates, but she could definitely be contributing to the problem too.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Danni, I think you’re probably drawing a lot on your own experience here, but there really are situations like what the OP describes, where people are indeed resentful and undermining because they wanted the job or they don’t like reporting to someone they’re used to seeing as a peer. The comments that the OP reports that they’ve made to her seem to support that.

  12. Heather*

    Wow. I now have the feeling that being a manager is akin to being a parent. Much like your kids, your direct reports are not your buddies. They require thoughtfulness and respect but also guidance that is accompanied by discipline and consequences. Of course, parenting is not at all the same as managing other adults in a business setting, but some of the general strategies for communicating are similar.

  13. Harry*

    I would like to add. You are now their boss and you don’t need to be their friend. Likelihood is that they will gang up against you. I was in a similar position where I was by far the youngest and least experience. But I worked hard and demonstrated that I listened, cared and fought for them when issues came up or backed them up against other teams. Sooner or later they will respect you. Respect must be earned and not bought.

  14. Scott M*

    Reading this makes me so glad I never went into management. In fact, I’m glad I’m not in any leadership position at all.

    1. Jamie*

      Well, don’t let stuff like this stop you, if you ever want to move in that direction. Transitions are often a pita – but they pass.

    2. Vicki*

      I agree with Scott M. And stuff “like this” doesn’t “stop me”… it’s part of the many reasons why I would never never never allow someone to make me be a manager. The thought that nearly everyone in the OP’s department applied to be manager. Ugh!

      1. Jen*

        I am the senior member in my team (by date of hire, not by title) and we don’t have a team leader. I really, really hope my boss doesn’t ever consider me! Reading this article and the comments made me shudder (especially since I have a few coworkers who would react just like the OP’s).

  15. anonymices*

    Keep in mind that in many companies, the people who work on your project do not report to you directly, and you do not have hire/fire authority. It can be very helpful as a manger (first-time or not) to acquaint yourself with the various types of authority.

    Senior managers are pretty familiar with the possibility that their new junior managers may struggle and need some help, so don’t be afraid to reach out for help. In fact, don’t hesitate to do so. The most frustrating employees are the ones who will not tell you when they are struggling.

  16. nyxalinth*

    When I worked in my first call center job, a fellow phone flunky was promoted into Quality Assurance (the people who monitor calls to make sure the agents do their jobs right). Before her promotion, she was quite nice, but after, the attitude came out. Now, by attitude, I do not mean “Polite and friendly but maintained the proper professional distance” I mean acting like she was better than the rest of us and going on a power trip. Just because you outrank someone does not mean you are better, just higher ranked with more responsibility and hopefully the skills to go with it.

    I agree with the rest of the comments here, btw, so I have nothing else to add. I hope it works out for you.

    1. Vicki*

      “Just because you outrank someone does not mean you are better, just higher ranked with more responsibility and hopefully the skills to go with it.”

      nyxalinth – you just explained, succinctly, the problem with most of the managers I have had (and I have had… 20?).

  17. Max*

    “However, I’m trying to be sensitive that they are all upset they were passed over for this promotion.”

    You really shouldn’t. I won’t say that you should never cut your employees slack when they’re facing stressful situations, but nobody deserves better treatment solely because they didn’t get the promotion they wanted.

    In addition, letting your subordinates disrespect you to your face like that is something that should never be allowed, no matter how much stress they’re under – it directly undermines your authority with the team. That kind of disrespect is inappropriate even between equal co-workers, and when directed at a manager or supervisor it affects their ability to do their job. You shouldn’t just jump straight to firing people, or start a fight over it, but you can’t just quietly ignore those sorts of comments either.

  18. Chris*

    When I question the value of assertiveness, I always replay the scene from Kill Bill where Lucy Liu demonstrates who’s the boss after one of the older men tries to belittle her. A little decisive action, followed by shouting, “Now, if anyone has anything else to say, now’s the time!” can really be effective.

  19. KT (original poster)*

    Hi everyone! I am the original poster.
    AAM – I can’t thank you enough for your advice, and taking time to provide links to other resources.
    As soon as I saw the words “you’re being too soft” that that was the root of the problem. The advice you and many of the commenters (there are a lot of great comments!) has given me a lot to think about. For those who were wondering, I obviously can’t say for sure if jealousy is the issue (and I didn’t mean jealousy of me specifically but jealous that I got the job they wanted), but I do know concretely who applied and who didn’t and those who did apply are the ones I’m having difficulty with.
    Since this post I have spoken to one of the employees with disrespectful attitude and let him know it was unacceptable. He seemed taken aback and said he was “just teasing.” I’d say his comments went further than that, but he said the message was received.
    For the poster who said respect had to be earned, I have to disagree. the workplace you treat everyone with respect, especially your manager. I treat my manager with respect, I treat our CEO Roth respect, and I treat the mail room staff and receptionist with respect. It’s a workplace.
    Anyways, just wanted to say thanks to AAM and everyone!

    1. BCW*

      I do agree that respect has to be earned. You can have a level of courtesy that you get just by being another person, but that doesn’t mean they have to respect you.

  20. KT (original poster)*

    I meant to say as soon as I saw the words you’re being too soft that
    I knew that was the root of the problem.

  21. Roll Dog*

    I think that one flaw that some people have is mixing their personal life/feelings with that of their job or business. They think that people who work with or for them have to be their friends. I have gone through that negative experience at my last job.

    When I am at a job, I am focused on doing my job. I have respect for everyone. Even if I make a new friend and he/she all of a sudden become supervisor or manager, I would respect and consider him/her as a supervisor/manager on the job. Outside my job, we may remain as friends or not anymore. I am fine with either way. But, some employees/workers may resent their friends who manager or boss them.

  22. MR*

    Dear God,
    We have a meeting in a few minutes I need for upper management and my collagues to support me in the work that is given. Let upper management my VP of HR support me to the fullest. Dont let other peoples words of jealous or hate because of the way I dress or talk come between them and my job. I need my job to the fullest. Guide your sight mind Lord to them. I am only one person trying my best. Let me keep my title and salary. AMEN

  23. H.*

    In this example the manager has power to take action.

    But, in some cases no power is given to the department manager to fire employees – and therefore this new manager has no right to enforce any consequences if negative behaviour persists.

    This kind of “no power” management roles exist more than one would think. The manager is then just a “day-to-day people manager” who doesn’t even have the competence to change work processes without the approval of his superior.

    This puts the new manager in a position where he has to solve the issue of resentment by his own team in a different way, without any power to take action by firing or similar (and the team knows that he doesn’t have that power).

    How can that issue be tackled?

  24. Grizel*

    The situation the OP is in is very similar to what I’m going through just now. I’m managing a small team (7) where two of the team unsuccessfully applied for the position I now hold, even though one of them acted up into the role for a while. They also both have more experience in the field than me. One of them is particularly rude, undermining and unco-operative. Our workplace has been through painful restructuring in the last couple of years and, like the original OP I think I’ve tried to be too soft and too understanding with these team members so far.

    What makes the problem even worse for me is that there is a history of very bad weak management in my workplace. Therefore they do not expect to be managed effectively and whilst I realise what I have to do I think it’s harder when people have got away with poor performance etc for 8 years without being managed. In addition they are quick to look for any opportunity to run to the Trade Union, play the grievance card, etc. There are some days I’ve felt physically sick with the stress.

    What I particularly dislike about my current situation is that I need to rely on these two to provide me with information to allow me to fine tune processes and procedures. They are reluctant to do so. It is like getting blood out of a stone. They will withhold as much as possible from me, then complain about my proposals/new procedures even although I actively asked for their input at the outset. I feel like they try to set me up to fail.

    I really am having a baptism of fire for my first management role but I guess I have to bite the bullet and get on with it. Sites like this really do help!

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