You Got Promoted To Manager, And A Coworker Is Mad: Here's What To Say
This article originally appeared on Forbes by Mark Murphy, Founder of Leadership IQ
Congratulations on getting that big promotion to manager! But, what happens if you had to compete against one or more of your colleagues to win the job? And now they’re mad because you won and they lost?
Well, I’ve got bad news and good news. The bad news is that you can’t really control whether a few of your former coworkers are mad at you for winning the promotion. And trying to discuss their feelings of anger is likely to make the situation worse.
But the good news is that you can move them past their hurt feelings and repair the relationship. Here are four steps to conduct a conversation with your former coworkers:
Step 1: Be empathic but don’t get sucked into a conversation about their feelings. If you start talking about why they’re angry, they’re likely to say hurtful things like “you’re not qualified to be my manager” or “I’ve always performed better than you” or “you only got the job because you’re a suck up”. And if you try to defend yourself, you’ll probably say hurtful things like “the bosses obviously chose me over you for a reason” or “you’re obviously not as good as you think you are” or “I guess the bosses don’t think you have management potential.” The net result of such a conversation is that there will be lots of hurt feelings. And you’ll end up spending your days trying to repair the hurt instead of succeeding at your new manager job. Instead, direct the topic of conversation to the next three steps.
Step 2: Talk about the goals the department has to achieve, both for your company and your customers. When people have something to think about besides themselves and their own feelings, their energy can be directed more productively. Besides, you were promoted to accomplish certain things, and regardless of any hurt feelings, those things still have to be accomplished.
Step 3: Ask them about their career aspirations. Just because they didn’t get this particular promotion doesn’t mean that they can’t get other management promotions.
Step 4: Discuss their career goals and think about ways you can help them position their career in the right direction. You’re the manager now. That means you have access to resources, insights, training, etc. that can help employees grow and develop. And this is true for all of your employees. So if you can think of this irritated former coworker the same way you’d think about any other employee that comes to you and says ‘I’d like to be a manager someday,’ you’ll be fine.
Using the four steps outlined above, let’s look at how an actual conversation might proceed:
Pat, your irritated former coworker, walks into your office, sits down and says
“So I guess you’re head honcho now, huh? I don’t know why they chose you over me, but whatever…”
“Pat, I’m really excited to work with you. This department has lots of big goals to achieve for our company and our customers, including…[insert your goals here]
Now, there’s still an elephant in the room. But, conversations about things we can’t control aren’t going to help. So let’s talk about what we can control. And specifically, let’s talk about your management aspirations because there may be ways that I can be helpful, with assignments, opportunities I see, etc. By helping me better understand your goals, I can be more helpful to you.
Can you tell me about what really appeals to you about management jobs? Are there particular things that you find most interesting? What do you see as being the benefits? And the biggest costs of those jobs?”
- You empathized with their situation and didn’t ignore it.
- You avoided getting sucked into a long conversation about their feelings (which will only exacerbate the hurt).
- You expressed excitement about working with them.
- You made clear that a decision was made, we all still have a job to do, and you expect them to perform their job.
- You gave them a path for achieving their managerial career goals. Maybe this particular position didn’t go their way, but they still have ample opportunity if they’re willing to work with you.
Mark Murphy is the founder of Leadership IQ, a New York Times bestselling author, a sought-after speaker, and he also teaches a series of weekly webinars for leaders.