Office Coach: To end power struggle, ask boss for help

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Q: My manager, "Melanie," is undermining my relationship with my staff. Shortly after I was promoted to supervisor, my employees began going to Melanie with work-related concerns. Instead of involving me in these discussions, she tells me afterwards how I should handle their issues.

When I asked Melanie to start directing employees back to me, she seemed reluctant to do so. She is apparently more interested in making friends with my staff than properly managing the department. She sometimes spends up to two hours a day talking with them, but if I mention it, she says she's just chatting.

I was initially excited about my promotion, but now it seems like a nightmare. I explored the possibility of transferring to another department, but Melanie found out and was not happy about it. Our differences have created a lot of tension, so I'm afraid she may retaliate on my performance review. What should I do?

A: This situation has gotten so far out of hand that the real problem is being completely overlooked. Instead of tallying up the hours Melanie spends with your staff, you should be asking yourself why employees don't feel comfortable talking with you. And instead of shutting you out, Melanie should be developing your supervisory skills by involving you in these conversations.

Sadly, this potential mentoring opportunity has deteriorated into something resembling a power struggle. Since power struggles with the boss seldom turn out well, you would be wise to de-escalate the conflict by asking your manager for help in addressing the central issue.

For example: "As you know, I was pretty upset when my employees began going to you with their problems. But after thinking about it, I realize that I have a lot to learn as a new supervisor. If you could help me improve my ability to handle employee issues, they might eventually feel comfortable coming to me directly."

If Melanie responds well to this peace offering, you will have taken a big first step towards getting the relationship back on track and avoiding a bad performance rating.


Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach:


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