Job transition ups status & stress for civilian now supervising co-workers

Rising in the ranks can create changes in the team dynamics. Today’s Q & A presents a civilian who’s earned added ‘stripes’ by taking on a new, leadership role supervising former colleagues.

BossStress can rear its head for the team and for the one bestowed with new duties and perceived status. You’ll find this insight from both Pamela and from Shaun Collins useful. Their response to a query posted in their regular He Said She Said column was featured first in Ft. Leonard Wood‘s My Guidon and is reprinted with a light edit here for our community:

The Q:   I’m a Department of the Army civilian employee and have recently taken on a team leadership role at work. Two of the women in my section, whom I consider to be very good friends, have had trouble accepting this change. They refuse to help when I ask for their support, so I end up doing the work myself. My supervisor told me that I should not be doing their work for them. How can I convince my co-workers to give me a break?

The A as HE SAID: This is not an infrequent problem and if you cannot gain their buy-in and respect as their supervisor, you will wind up just doing all of the work in order to accomplish the mission, while they sit back and snicker.

Shaun Collins shares his experiences of snags in his own military to civilian transition

Shaun M. Collins

I have never been the kind of leader that found this practice acceptable. If it were me, I would sit down with them individually, then as a group to discuss the transition, assign specific duties and responsibilities and let them know that you will be following these discussions up with a document putting this discussion on the books, officially.

So if there are any issues to be aired, now is the time.

When you assign them tasks, do so in writing and be very specific about who is responsible for what — you’ll prevent finger pointing and wriggling to avoid accountability later. If they fail to meet their obligations, do not do the work for them, write a letter of concern, run it past CPO and the attorneys at SJA. This ensures you have worded everything clearly and correctly so that if you should have to seek disciplinary action in the future, it will withstand the scrutiny.

You will likely find very quickly, that their compunction about you being appointed their supervisor is merely a test of your leadership skills; if you cave, you fail – if you succeed in getting their attention, the situation will be resolved very quickly.

However, should this behavior continue beyond the initial testing stages, you will have to resort to official letters of reprimand, reflections on their evaluation reports, suspensions and ultimately the possibility of termination.

Once you start down this road with one employee, I can tell you from experience, the others will fall into line, as they will not want to follow their colleague down this path. Remember, every action will send a signal – what that signal is, is entirely up to you.

The A as SHE SAID: When I was active duty, our command had a policy. Enlisted Soldiers that went to Warrant Officer School could not return to their previous unit for this very reason (Although, from time-to-time, it did happen).

Pam Collins

Pam Collins

As you have experienced first hand, transitioning from being a co-worker to taking on a supervisory role can be difficult.

I do understand that you consider these two women good friends. I would ask what kind of friends they could be if they cannot respect the fact that you are now their supervisor and put you in this position?

Unfortunately for you, employees who would take advantage of this type of friendship force people in your position to make a choice – friends or supervisors? It appears they have made this choice for you.

When subordinates are mature, they can continue to work for someone they consider a friend. When they aren’t, as in this case, they see you as a coworker.

When you go to your boss to complain, you are telling him you see yourself as their coworker and are incapable of resolving the conflict at your level. Their behavior has made maintaining a friendship impossible. Be their boss.

Reader comments wanted!

HOW have you managed a workplace situation that came up due to transition into new roles, laterally or up and down?

LEAVE your tips in the comments below!

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