DEAR J.T. & Dale: I recently promoted a younger employee to manager. He is very talented and has helped us grow the business. While I was out last week, he was goofing around and showed a really inappropriate video to the staff. Several of them came to me saying they were offended and that he should be fired. I know that employees are jealous that I promoted him. I don’t want to lose him, but I can’t just ignore what happened. – Andreas
Dale: You bring back painful memories, Andreas. As a young professional, it took me a while to realize that my sense of humor didn’t always align with that of my more conservative co-workers. Fortunately for me, I came up in a time before HR was used as a weapon, and I was let off with parental-style lectures from older colleagues. And so I’m glad to hear that you aren’t taking the intellectually lazy “zero-tolerance” approach.
J.T.: Your new manager likely hasn’t had any leadership training or counseling in what is appropriate for the office. I think you should meet with him immediately and explain the ramifications of what he did. Pay attention to his response. If he gets defensive, then he should be let go. But if he understands the severity and is apologetic, you can work with him to resolve this. He needs to apologize to the entire staff and stress that it won’t happen again.
Dale: This is why “probation” was created: to let you give someone another chance while not ignoring what transpired.
J.T.: From there, I’d consider investing in some education on how to be an effective leader. Since he is younger, the more coaching he can get, the better he’ll be able to handle situations such as dealing with jealous colleagues.
Dale: And let me offer one other memory, Andreas, one relevant to jealous employees: As a young company owner, I sought to treat everyone equally. Seemed fair. And then one day I had a revelation, all because I was in a dark mood. A mediocre employee was griping to me about how my star employee – a wonder named Oti – had gotten special consideration. She asked, “How come Oti can do that and I can’t?” I blurted out the truth: “Because she’s the best employee I’ve ever had.” I thought I’d made a mistake, but an amazing thing happened: The mediocre employee stopped complaining and started studying Oti. Soon everyone was doing it. And I realized how stupid my failed “equality” had been. Thereafter, I openly celebrated talent.
Dear J.T. & Dale: My company has decided to move to a new online software system. I hate it, and I can’t seem to get the hang of it. I’ve been a loyal employee for 10 years, but now I feel my job is at risk because I can’t keep up. What can I do? – Coral
J.T.: This is going to be hard to hear, Coral, but if this is now a part of the job, it doesn’t matter how loyal you’ve been. Going forward, you have to look at the new software as a challenge you can and will overcome, and by doing so, you can figure out what you can do to close your learning gap. It’s technology – at least it doesn’t have emotions! People are a lot harder to deal with. Technology is predictable.
Dale: True, technology has no emotions – including sympathy and compassion. But 10 years of loyalty ought to buy you some sympathy and compassion from at least a few of your co-workers. Every staff has software-whisperers, those who understand the logic of programs on a deeper level than the rest of us. Many of those people are haughty and dismissive, but others are generous with their knowledge. Seek out one of the latter and then make sure you’re a good learner. How to do that? Make a list of the issues you’re encountering, and when the solutions are explained, take notes. While you can find individuals who are happy to explain, no one wants to re-explain. Refuse to be helpless, and help will appear.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm jtodonnell. Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with AgreementHouse.com. Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.