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Question: “My manager asked me to take over a very difficult position for which I had no background or training. He has been pleased with my progress. However, a group of guys from another department seem determined to make me fail. They ignore my requests, withhold information and argue about everything. My male predecessor left because of their behavior, so my being a woman is not the only problem. I tried making peace by offering to help with their work, but that only made things worse. Apparently, they viewed my olive branch as a sign of surrender. Recently, my boss and their manager decided that all communication between us must go through the two of them. This worries me, because it looks like I can’t handle the situation. Any suggestions?” — Not One of the Guys

Marie’s Answer: When they ran off your predecessor, these grouchy guys learned that sabotage can work. That’s why they’re trying it again. Here are some points to consider:

•    The managers’ decision to get involved is probably no reflection on your performance. If they are aware of your colleagues’ difficult history, they may simply be controlling communication to short-circuit their guerrilla tactics.

•    Ongoing management support will help, so try to strengthen your relationship with your adversaries’ manager. When faced with tenacious opponents, the best ammunition is a strong connection to their boss.

•    Since guys in macho mode often view collaborative overtures as weakness, you may need to toughen up your communication style. You’ll get the best results by being straightforward, direct and persistent.

Once management has made it clear that cooperation is mandatory, you should be able to gradually resume normal communications. For more Office Coach suggestions on workplace battles, see How to Handle Enemies & Adversaries.

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