I recently landed a dream job managing a department for a strong, growing company. On my first day, I individually met with each of my twelve employees. Two employees’ hostility surprised me. I then learned one thought he thought he should been given the promotion instead of it going to an “outsider” and the other was his “workplace wife.”
It’s been two weeks since I learned this. It’s clear both will do anything in their power to sabotage me. Both make up stories about me and what I’ve allegedly said. One pulls employees aside to tell them outright lies, in one case even convincing one of them to place a formal complaint about things I’d allegedly said. As near as I can tell, the man who thought he deserved my job spends little to no time completing work.
As I’m new here, I’ve not been given disciplinary authority over the employees. I can’t pull either into my office to deal with the problems they’re causing. I’ve filled in my manager, who handles our district, but he hasn’t done anything yet. Also, he had no idea things were such a mess here, and it will somewhat go against him that he let it get so bad.
My workload is severe and my workdays long as I struggle to clean up problems that had apparently needed to be tackled months ago. I arrive at work at six-thirty in the morning and leave exhausted at 6 p.m., five days a week and then work half-days on Saturday. These two employees unnecessarily add to the stress. I’m scared I’ll make a major mistake and they’ll jump all over it and that my new boss may think he’s made the wrong hiring decision. What can I do?
When disgruntled employees want to undercut a newly hired manager from the outside, they possesses a distinct advantage. You battle a steep learning curve and they know the lay of the land. This gives them more time to bend other employees’ ears and create uproar in an effort to topple you. Further, employees such as you’ve described often feel self-righteous about their actions, as they feel you unfairly got “their” promotion. Luckily, those they give their views to know them, which means they may know their warts. Further, there were reasons you were brought in from the outside.
You, however, initially possess a clean slate. Move quickly, before it further muddies. You’ve taken a great first step by meeting with each employee. Continue connecting with your employees so they get to know you and thus find it hard to believe this employee’s misrepresentations. Provide your manager with clear, concise reports so he’ll know what you’re dealing with, both in terms of the problems you’re uncovering and these two employees’ actions.
Most importantly, don’t let this employee’s antics make you react in less than professional ways. If you do, you risk proving the negative stories they’re spreading. Instead, calmly and firmly manage and lead. Outline your expectations to your team and realize your most important job is motivating and managing your entire employee group.
Finally, while there may be no saving employees who lie, treat both professionally and fairly. Since they are two of your twelve, outline your expectations to both and aim for productive discussions focused on the work each needs to be doing. If, as you suspect, either isn’t performing, you or your manager needs to terminate one or both of these employees, based on either performance or character assassination. Act in visible good faith with him so your other employees will see you as a leader they respect, and so any eventual firings don’t backfire.
© 2020, Lynne Curry
Lynne Curry is the author of “Beating the Workplace Bully” (AMACOM, 2016) and “Solutions” (both books are rated 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon.com). Send your questions to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on twitter @lynnecurry10.