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March 10, 2009

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About 90 days ago I was hired into a position that was to be a recruitingmanager. When I accepted the position, I was not aware of the officedynamics. A person who had been here 5 years wanted the position and didnot receive it. The person she reported to is a manager (who has been here8 years) and this manager was supposed to relinquish the recruiting dutiesto me. The two people (one of whom wanted the job I received) who report tome do not come to me for anything, but instead continue to go to the personwho was the only manager before I came. We have had a meeting about thisproblem, but it still happens. I am quite frustrated (to the point where Iwould like to resign). I have talked to the manager and our VP, but am notreceiving the support I believe I need. Can you provide me withsuggestions/advice?

Laurie: Starting a new position is challenging, especially in a managerial capacity. A successful transition depends on several key factors, a few of which were mentioned in your description of your situation:

  • role clarification
  • organizational dynamics
  • decision-making and management "culture"

You are smart to consider these factors in your evaluation of the situation. How you manage these as well as some other key factors will be critical in determining how your staff regards you as their manager and how your new management regards your ability to fit in and perform, and will greatly impact your ability to make a successful transition. ~The ability to communicate effectively with management, peers, and staff is one of the most critical leadership competencies, and it is frequently identified as an issue that adversely impacts both individual performance effectiveness and team/organizational effectiveness. Your situation reflects potential communication issues that will need to be addressed in order to help resolve your dilemma (or determine whether it is resolvable in accordance with your expectations):

  • You did not indicate whether you had obtained management's confirmation of the Recruiting Manager position's responsibilities (and staff reporting relationships) before you accepted the employment offer, or whether you had made an assumption about the specific responsibilities and staff interaction you might have in the position.
    If you did not obtain their confirmation, there may be a lack of agreement about your role (which may or may not be resolvable to your satisfaction).

  • You mentioned that you have had discussions with your manager and VP since you started the job, but you are not getting the support you need. In your attempts to resolve the situation, did you clearly communicate what your original expectations were, explain how the current situation differs from those expectations, and identify the role conflict you are experiencing? If not, they may not be totally aware of how they may be inadvertently contributing to the adversity of the situation.

  • Have you confirmed key performance objectives and expectations for your position with management? If not, you may have different ideas about what constitutes successful performance, and that misunderstanding is likely to be very dangerous.

  • In your discussions with management, did you ask them whether they are satisfied with your performance so far and why they have not "relinquished" the Recruiting Manager responsibilities to you yet?
    If you did not ask them to confirm your perception of what your role should be and what constitutes successful performance, as well as why they have not transferred responsibilities to you, you may not fully understand their expectations of your role or their perceptions of your performance. It is possible that either there is a lack of agreement regarding your role, or they are making the transition according to a different timeframe from you, or they may feel that you are not demonstrating sufficient leadership ability for them to "relinquish" those responsibilities to you.

  • You did not mention whether your discussions with your two staff members allowed you to clarify your and their expectations of your role as their manager; their expectations of their former manager's role; and their reasons for why they are not interacting with you. Communication is the most critical responsibility in a management capacity, especially listening, and a climate of openness and trust must be established early in a relationship or it may never develop.
~Take the time to sit with each of your staff members individually and LISTEN to their thoughts and concerns (especially the person who did not get promoted as expected). There may be valid reasons for why they continue to go to their former manager instead of to you. Ultimately, you will need your management's agreement with whatever new reporting process you wish to establish before you can hold your staff accountable for adhering to it.

It is important to remember that respect can not be commanded; it is earned through demonstration of our personal effectiveness in whatever role we are supposed to be performing, and each person's expectations and perceptions of us form their view of reality. Great danger lies in not knowing how those expectations and perceptions may be different from our own.

Before you make a decision about resigning, find out the answers to the questions outlined above. Even if you end up obtaining information that may be in conflict with what you had desired or expected, there will surely be valuable learning which can be utilized in your current position and/or in your future employment situations.

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Filed Under: Workplace Issues

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