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I inherited the “new manager from hell.” What now?

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Question: “Our department is expanding and hiring additional staff and two new managers. My previous boss was promoted to a new higher-level position, and I was promoted to be her assistant (new position). We’ve worked tirelessly to support the new staff, including the new managers. I have difficulty understanding one of the new managers because she has a heavy accent. When she’s not satisfied with something, she just talks faster. She is not satisfied with my performance and has asked me to stay and help her assistant in setting up meetings. I have refused. Now she has reported me directly to HR. It is a power struggle. How do I solve this problem but still keep a good working relationship? I have received nothing but good performance reviews for the past 20 years. I am afraid I might lose my job.” — Hilary

Wow---first of all, I can't believe you would be out right insubordinate with a manager. Although you might not like her, or agree with her management style, refusing to assist her is a sure fire way of setting yourself up for failure.I have had many managers over the years; I haven't liked all of them. Before changing jobs a year ago, I had the Manager from Hell. The two of us definitely did not see eye to eye on a lot of issues, however, I bit my tongue, swallowed my pride---and I did whatever she asked me to do and I did it professionally and to the best of my ability. I was not going to let her ruin my professionally ability.

My advice to you--swallow your pride and be the best you can be!

Posted by: | September 05, 2008 at 01:19 PM

Honesty is the best policy. Go to lunch or get a cup of coffee with this manager. Tell her you that you really want to do a good job for her, but you have difficulty understanding her at times and you need for her to be patient and repeat things. Soon your ear will pick up on her accent and you won't need to have her repeat things. If she sees that you are genuinely trying to do a good job, and that you are not her advisary she may lighten up a bit. She's is probably nervous being in a new position herself. HR will appreciate that you tried to work this out on your own, and they know that you are an employee with 20 years good performance. They will see where the variable is. You know you are a good assistant. This is just another problem, and you solve problems every day. You'll solve this one. Good luck.

Posted by: Kenni | September 05, 2008 at 01:22 PM

Why would you "refuse" to help her assistant? It doesn't sound to me like you are bending over backwards to help get these new people trained and up to speed.

Posted by: | September 05, 2008 at 01:48 PM

If she is 'not satisfied with your performance' but still asks you to stay late to help her assistant, I think she's satisfied. Be patient, and if you can't or won't stay late to help, offer someone who can. An assistant is there to assist. If you really don't feel comfortable working with her, talk to your manager about it. I do agree that you need to do some 'work bonding' in order to sort out the miscommunications and differences.

Posted by: Liza | September 05, 2008 at 01:52 PM

WOW is right! I would never be say no I won't help you. Maybe there are times that I absolutely cannot due to prior engagements, but not just to say no. Anyway, I agree that maybe if you did stay late and help her it would give you an opportunity to discuss the problems you both are having working together. I agree too that sometimes we need to just bite the bullet and help when needed. There are managers that I have worked for that I did not like or thought should be in that position, but I just helped out when asked and sometimes when not asked I offered myself, once she saw that I was not going to let her bother me or ruin my 19 years I have on my job, she started to lighten up on me and believe it or not, came to me most of the time for help and for my opinion on things. I also ended up receiving a good evaluation from her at the end of the year as well. So, hold your head up, lay your pride aside and be there when she needs you. I know you both can work through it. If not, at least it will not be because "you" were not the one that did not try.

Posted by: KiKi | September 05, 2008 at 01:52 PM

I would think you would want to help her assistant,aren't we all doing the same type of job just at different levels. If you can't stay late why not do a "working" lunch with her. There is an old saying that goes, "you can catch more flys with honey than vinegar!"

Posted by: Cathy | September 05, 2008 at 02:43 PM

Hilary, you stated that you recently got a promotion. This indicates that the company feels that you are a competent and valued employee. Why would you want to give HR and the company reasons to wonder if they made a mistake by promoting you. I have seen this kind of situation on several occasions at companies I have worked and trust me, if this situation gets ugly, you will be the one the company lets go, not the new manager. You need to re-think this and not only speak to your immediate supervisor but also the new manager to set limits on how much time you have available to assist the manager's assistant. You will come out on top by doing so. Good luck!

Posted by: Dee Miller | September 05, 2008 at 03:06 PM

If your boss brought you along with her new promotion, it means she obviously values you as an employee and trusts you. I would sit down with her, and ask her advice on what to do.

Posted by: Mark | September 05, 2008 at 05:53 PM

Hilary - It sounds to me that you are correct, this is a power struggle and you are going to lose. Please don't let your boss be wrong in bringing you along with her. Prove to her that she made the right decision. Now help the manager. Be willing to schedule times during the work day to work with her and to work with her assistant. If she asks you to stay and help and she isn't giving you lead time (for example you car pool, so you need to have an alternate way home, etc.), simply explain that situation and indicate that you will make alternate arrangements for the following day and will happily stay after work then to assist her and her aide. You need to be the "better" person in this situation.

Posted by: Bonnie | September 07, 2008 at 12:12 PM

This sounds like a ball rolling out of control and you and her are going to be caught with your butts in the wind eventually. Considering your promotion, your manager would be dissapointed you were a part of the problem. Rise above. If you are unable to stay late maybe offer to help her during your work day and then she can stay later to finish the rest of her work. Or ask yourself this, if it were someone else, would you being staying?? Because in the work atmosphere it does not matter if you like the person or not, you work together to get the job done. I would just talk to her because she could feel the same way as you do, and instead of making it worse it may become better. The last time you checked you were her supervisor right, it is your job to address the relationship and it is your job to make sure she can and is doing hers. Keep this up and you may have your fist neg comment on your next review. You were assigned to be a leader and right now, you are not.

Posted by: | September 08, 2008 at 08:38 AM

If she wasn't satisfied with your work she wouldn't have asked you to work with her assistant. In reading your post it appears you were reported to HR not because she is un-happy with your work but becasue you refused to do something she asked. If you couldn't stay late you should have stated that while you would like to help her out today is not a good time and offer another option - meet earlier or on another day. Refusing to help someone just because you don't like or understand them is not going to help your career in any way. It sounds like a power struggle all right - but I am not sure she is the only one trying to show who has the power.Sit down with the manager and have a professional discussion. Let her know that you want to help her in any way that you can but it appears that she is not happy with your work. Find out what you can do to rectify the situation. If AFTER discussing it with the manager things still our not working then you need to sit down with your boss and discuss. Keep it professional. Don't attack the manager for going to HR - discuss why they felt then needed to go to HR and not come to you. If you go on the attack it is only going to cause more problems.

Posted by: tlg | September 08, 2008 at 10:23 AM

Why would you refuse to help a co-worker, if someone asked you? If you were not able to stay late then you should have explained why this was not possible but give an alternative date and times. Also, how come this manager you are having problems with is not going to your boss directly about the problems but instead went to HR directly? Maybe its time for you to speak to your boss and arrange a meeting so everyone can get on the same page. You need to see where this manager is coming from so you can have a better working relationship. You take the highroad.

Posted by: Jo | September 08, 2008 at 03:02 PM

Refusing to perform a task is willful insubordination and at most companies is grounds for termination. Sounds to me like "sour grapes" and the company would be better off without a person with a negative mind set/attitude

Posted by: bj | September 12, 2008 at 03:08 PM

I would suggest that you discuss this with your boss, who sets your workload. Let her know how many hours you are spending each week working with the other managers and their staff. I would suggest doing that before you refuse to help someone else in the department, your manager should make the call not you. Keep in mind you may be asked to continue helping, I am sure that your manager wants you both to be viewed as 'Team Players'to the new people in the department as well as HR who is now involved. Remember too, that your position is to offer assistance and try to keep this situation from marring your career and your managers reputation in the department or the company.

Posted by: kjh | September 12, 2008 at 03:56 PM

How many managers and assistants are on your boss's staff? If alot, and you can't give this much attention to all of them, your boss needs to be brought in as it's a workload problem. Also, what does your boss think about your staying to help? The buck will eventually stop with your boss, and you owe it to her to find out her thoughts on this, as does the manager who bypassed her and went to HR. On the whole, I'd guess a manager who goes to HR about the boss' assistant is so unprofessional, this may be a bigger problem than just your workload.

Posted by: kae | September 12, 2008 at 05:01 PM

Ask here to put her requests in writing if possible. It is not your fault you cannot understand her if she is not very fluent in the English language.

Posted by: NICKY | September 22, 2008 at 03:23 PM

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