Managing an aggressive team member
What you need to know:
- The first option is to speak with your Manager. Unfortunately, his inability to “nip your colleague’s behaviour in the bud” has given room to the inappropriate behaviour that you are observing. Share with him the concerns that you have.
Dear Caroline, I work in a small team of five. Recently, my colleague and I went through an internal assessment for promotion. My colleague has been with the organisation longer than me. He is brilliant and has worked with our Manager longer than I have. I was successful and was promoted. As a result, I became the team leader and my colleague’s supervisor. While excited about my new role, I noted that my colleague has started to undermine me subtly since he did not take the promotion well. While I have tried my best to manage the situation, being respectful in meetings, refraining from using my full title in external meetings etc. I feel my manager has not played his part in managing the situation. As a result, my colleague’s behaviour has started to trickle down and impact the rest of the team. My manager seems hesitant to address the matter, causing me frustration. What do I do? Catherine
Hello Catherine, it is unfortunate that you are in this situation and likely do not have complete control over how this matter should be addressed. Your Manager is likely struggling to manage the situation, given that he had the final say in your appointment and has worked with your colleague longer than you have. I suspect he’s well aware of your colleague’s behaviour and has observed it. I commend your manager for making the hard decision to select you, given his past relationship; that said, your selection was based on technical competence and professional maturity. In addressing this matter, consider two options available to you.
The first option is to speak with your Manager. Unfortunately, his inability to “nip your colleague’s behaviour in the bud” has given room to the inappropriate behaviour that you are observing. Share with him the concerns that you have. While you have the discussion, it is essential that you also share the evidence of the behaviour. You do need to be careful not to share hearsay information; otherwise, you open yourself up to she said, he said, which can quickly escalate into a possible grievance matter.
The second option is to have a meeting with your colleague so the matter can be discussed. In this option, you also need to handle it very carefully. You must avoid being openly combative/ aggressive but instead consult the matter. It would be best if you also were careful that given his passive-aggressive behaviour, he may deny that there is “an issue”, suggesting that “it’s you who has the issue”. Again make sure that if you have evidence of his behaviour, share it in t eh discussion. A point to note in this discussion is to start with what he has done well and focus the discussion on “say what you do want and not what you don’t want”.
While the above are the most direct solutions, you could also consider changing how you work as a team. This could include having regular meetings where the whole group discusses projects/ work and where each is expected to present their assignment progress. This way, you hold him accountable for work in an open forum. As soon as it becomes evident that “he’s not pulling his weight”, you have grounds to manage his behaviour impacting his work delivery. You are also making sure that the team is held accountable for their delivery.
The overarching point is that your Manager needs to handle the situation and reaffirm that you are the team leader. He should take the lead in doing the hard work, though you, too, can play your part by adjusting how you pull the team together, which leaves little room for the passive-aggressive to filter and impact the team. Good luck.
Managing Director, The Leadership Team (U) [email protected]