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Helping a co-worker stifle simmering resentment

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in Your Office Coach

Q: “My manager and I are concerned about one of my long-term employees who has a very negative attitude. ‘Jerry’ has been here for more than twenty years, but has not been promoted because of his job performance. He sometimes lets his resentment about this come to the surface.

“We recently got a new department head, and Jerry is having trouble adjusting to the change in management style. He doesn’t seem to understand that his poor attitude is going to cause him problems with the new boss. What can we do to help him?” Worried Supervisor

A: In my coaching practice, I frequently encounter otherwise intelligent people who are allowing anger or resentment to kill their careers. The key to breaking this self-destructive pattern is to help them make the connection between their own behavior and the outcomes that matter to them.

The first step, therefore, is to find out what Jerry wants at this stage of his career. Is he concerned about job security? Are there particular projects he would like to undertake? Is he still hoping for a promotion? He needs to begin considering how his current actions may affect his future goals.

Once you understand Jerry’s desires and interests, the next step is to help him recognize certain organizational realities. The unavoidable truth is that organizations are power hierarchies in which the people above you have the ability to make decisions that affect your life. If these higher-ups view you as unproductive or uncooperative, decisions will not be made in your favor.

Another inescapable fact is that a change in management inevitably signals the dawn of a new day. An executive with a fresh perspective is quite likely to modify existing policies, programs and practices. While this is understandably disconcerting for long-term employees, those who respond with negativity and resistance may find themselves on the next layoff list.

If you can help Jerry see that he is only hurting himself, you will be doing him a big favor. However, you and your boss also need to learn that actions have predictable consequences. By abdicating your management responsibilities and choosing to tolerate Jerry’s unacceptable performance, you have also contributed to this problem.

Employees often have a tough time with change. Here's how managers can help: How to Help People Accept Change.

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