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Managing an Employee Who Was Passed Over for Your Role

Managing an Employee Who Was Passed Over for Your Role

Alison Green | Ask A Manager

August 13, 2010

A reader writes:

There are lots of posts online about “how to deal with being passed over.” I am looking for perspective from the other side of the coin.

I was awarded a GM role and have to work with someone who was passed over for my role. What is the best way to deal with this person? I am an outsider to the industry but had stronger people management and Profit/Loss experience. I now have to work with someone who was passed over for the role.

Can you offer any suggestions? They are disappointed, a little sullen, and worst of all are voicing concerns to the staff.

She’s allowed to be disappointed — even angry or resentful, as long as she keeps it to herself. But she’s not welcome to behave unprofessionally, behave adversarially to you, spread toxicity, etc. If she’s doing any of these things, you need to address it head-on, by meeting with her in private and explaining your expectations of her conduct and how she’s not currently meeting them. In particular, you want to emphasize that if she has concerns about you, you expect her to bring them to you, not gossip behind your back. If the problem continues after that, you need to treat it like any other performance problem.

If her problematic behavior is fairly mild, you might also offer to help her with a growth plan so that she’s a stronger candidate for a promotion in the future.

What you don’t want to do is indulge the behavior. You want to address it directly, and soon, because this kind of thing can become a poison if left to fester. Sometimes in this situation, managers are more indulgent of problematic behavior because they feel sympathetic or even slightly guilty for getting the job the person wanted. Avoid that trap; the most effective thing you can do is to make it clear that she will be held to the same standards of conduct anyone else would be held to. Disappointments or not, she’s a grown-up working in a professional environment and needs to handle her disappointments like one.

Next: How to Deal With Workplace Anger >>


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