Question: My husband and I own a business that has seen some difficult economic times. For the past two years, we have had to reduce staff and cut salaries just to stay afloat. Now that our children are older, we have decided that I should start working in the office, especially since I have previous administrative experience.
Unfortunately, the secretary who has been with us for 12 years apparently resents my presence. "Ellen" treats me disrespectfully and seems reluctant to show me the ropes, despite the fact that I am an owner. How should I handle this?
Answer: Tough times tend to focus people on self-preservation. Although Ellen may be a bit out of line, her unwelcoming attitude probably reflects a concern that your arrival may signal her impending departure. After two years of layoffs, she undoubtedly fears she might be next, especially if you have assumed some of her duties.
The way you were introduced into the office might also be a factor. Bringing the boss's wife on board is not a minor event, even when she's an owner.
Before you began work, your husband should have explained your new role to everyone, then met individually with those who would be directly affected. If he failed to take these steps earlier, he needs to do so now. With Ellen, he should honestly address any concerns about job security and establish clear expectations for her relationship with you.
As you continue to increase your active participation in the business, remember that you are going through a learning curve. Although you have been an owner for many years, you are now becoming more involved in management and that requires an entirely different set of skills.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach. Visit www.yourofficecoach.com