Q: A few months ago, I promoted a young woman who appeared to have a lot of management potential. "Megan" seemed excited about her new role, and I looked forward to mentoring her. Lately, however, Megan's enthusiasm for the job seems to have waned.

Megan recently told me that she may not want to continue as a manager. I suspect this reversal was triggered by an employee incident which occurred while I was on vacation. We have scheduled a meeting next week to talk about her concerns.

Megan has also started questioning my leadership style. Because her husband is in management at another company, she tends to compare my approach with his. She feels I'm too easy on employees because I often side with them when issues arise. Perhaps this is so, but I don't want to seem unsympathetic.

Despite my high hopes for Megan, I am now rethinking her promotion. If she gives up this easily, maybe she isn't management material. How should I handle this?

A: Because managing people is a unique experience, most new supervisors need time to adjust. Before writing Megan off, you should explore the reasons for her sudden change of heart. If the "employee incident" has shaken her confidence, explain that this is simply part of the learning curve, and then ask what she would do differently next time.

I do have to wonder whether your view may be colored by Megan's critique of your behavior. As she begins to develop her own leadership style, Megan will naturally look for available role models. Since you and her husband are the most convenient examples, her comparison of your styles is neither surprising nor insulting.

As a mentor, you should encourage Megan to consider the pros and cons of different approaches. This will help her choose the best response for each situation instead of being driven by emotional reactions. For example, you might explain how your natural empathy for employees can be both a strength and a weakness.

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In addition to discussing her doubts, ask what Megan likes about management and highlight the things she does well. Encourage her to temporarily suspend judgment and suggest meeting weekly to continue exploring her feelings. If you praise Megan's progress and provide constructive coaching, she may eventually live up to your expectations.


Q: While I was on vacation, the woman who shares my office rearranged my entire work area. "Shannon" left me a note saying, "Surprise! I hope you don't mind." I told my manager, but she wasn't any help. What should I do about this?

A: Regardless of Shannon's intent, reorganizing your belongings without permission was an inexcusable boundary violation which must be addressed. Since the two of you will continue sharing space, however, you should respond assertively without escalating the conflict.

For example: "Shannon, I don't know why you reorganized my workspace, but I prefer things as they were, so I plan to change it back. In the future, if you have ideas for improving our office, just let me know so we can discuss them."

Given your close quarters, you might also ask whether anything about the prior configuration made Shannon's work more difficult. If so, perhaps you can find a compromise. But if not, just return to the previous arrangement.

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Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and author. Send in questions and get free coaching tips at www.yourofficecoach.com.


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