I’ve got a tough leadership situation to deal with. I run a Marketing department for a manufacturing firm. Our company is growing. We launched a new e-commerce site last year and the site has been very successful so far. There were a lot of start-up issues with it but those are basically behind us and sales volume is growing every month.
I got approval in March to hire an E-Commerce Manager to run the site and to be the interface between Marketing, IT and Inventory. It’s a plum position for the right person. There were six internal candidates for the job and I really wanted to promote someone internally, because I believe in creating advancement opportunities whenever possible. The leading candidate was Nick.
Nick has worked for me for two years. He’s a smart guy and very knowledgeable about our products. Everyone loves working with him. Nick is somewhat technical and I thought he’d be perfect for the E-Commerce Manager job. I asked our IT Manager Luis to interview the internal candidates along with me so that Luis would get everything he needed in the chosen candidate, and I would get everything I needed.
Luis liked Nick for the job but he had another internal candidate he was also very excited about. Her name is Monica. Monica was working in National Accounts when she applied for the job. Monica actually worked for me when she first joined the company four years ago.
Nick had lots more experience and more credibility in the company than Monica did, but Monica is an up-and-comer too and performed very capably in National Accounts.
Luis went to our Division Controller and got approval for a new hire of his own – an E-Commerce Specialist in IT. Several of the duties we had originally assigned to the E-Commerce Manager job in Marketing were moved into the new IT role.
I hired Nick for the E-Commerce Manager job in Marketing and Luis hired Monica for his E-Commerce Specialist job. Luis and I took Monica and Nick to lunch and talked about collaboration and the goals for their two new positions. Things started out fine. Monica and Nick were working closely together at first. Then they started to have problems.
Nick and Monica spent a lot of time talking about whose responsibility it was to perform certain tasks. It wasn’t that they didn’t want to do the work — they both wanted to do all of it, especially Nick.
Nick created a training manual for our salespeople to use with customers who want to place orders online. Monica adapted Nick’s manual for internal use and she and Nick ended up in an email war over it. Nick wanted credit for the original manual on which Monica’s manual was based. The whole thing got blown out of proportion.
Ever since then Nick has been less communicative, less friendly and frankly less effective at his job. I almost wish I hadn’t hired him for the position. I have never seen Nick behave in a territorial way or be less than a totally dedicated team player. Now he seems paranoid and angry almost all the time and it’s a real issue that we have to sort out. What do you recommend?
As we go through life we tend to see the world through very narrow glasses. We believe that our point of reference is the correct one. We forget that everybody around us has their own glasses and their own point of reference. That’s what is happening to you right now!
You posted a job opening and interviewed six candidates. Everyone who applied for the job was aware that only one of those candidates would get the job that all of them wanted.
Just when it was time to give Nick the nod and tell everybody else “No thanks,” you and Luis cooked up another plan. You got approval to create a whole new position in IT and you gave Monica that job.
What message do you think that sent to Nick? Of course Nick is paranoid and feeling bruised. You did something that high school directors have done countless times over the years. You couldn’t bear to say “Thanks anyway” to the runner-up who auditioned for the lead role in the musical, so you created another starring role and gave it to her in order to spare her feelings.
How do you think the person who won the original lead role feels when half of her songs and scenes are given to the runner-up?
You get to make decisions like that because you are a manager — and the same is true for Luis. But if there such a compelling need for an IT Specialist devoted to the e-commerce site, why wasn’t that discussed at any point prior? Why didn’t Nick know about the new IT role before his first interview for your E-Commerce Manager?
Nick was treated badly in this debacle. He interviewed for a job that both you and Luis thought he deserved. Instead of the resounding vote of confidence Nick wanted and expected from you, he got half the job he applied for. Monica got the other half.
Nobody asked Nick his opinion of your switch-up. That’s why he and Monica are squabbling over territory.
Who could blame them? You split one job into two to try and make everybody happy. That never works. You avoided a tough conversation with Monica by forcing Nick to give up half his role. That’s not fair to him, and it’s not good leadership.
I am also wondering about the new position you and Luis created for Monica.
Did the other four E-Commerce Manager candidates get the chance to interview for that job? If not, that is another unfair situation. It is pleasant to be the person who gets to dole out goodies, but it’s easy to forget that when you’ve communicated the clear message “Here’s a great job opening!” you’ve set an expectation.
You can’t whack the job into two pieces at the last minute and expect the selected candidate to be excited about it. You and Luis goofed up. Now you must clean up the mess by sitting down with Nick and apologizing for the confusion in his new role. Offer to clear up whatever role confusion has come between him and Monica. Let him vent. He has earned that right!
Tell him that you now see it wasn’t fair of you to ask him to step into and define a new role with half of his duties living in another department. Commit to get both roles clarified and to sort through whatever issues remain between him and Monica.
Then, look in the mirror and ask yourself “Did I go along with Luis’ plan to create a job for Monica just so I wouldn’t have to deliver the message ‘You didn’t get the job?’”
It’s tough to deliver bad news, but it’s part of a manager’s job. You didn’t make a mistake when you hired Nick.
You made a mistake when you only half-hired him, shaking his confidence and making him wonder why he didn’t get the job he interviewed for. Now you have to rebuild Nick’s confidence in you — not the other way around!
All the best,
This article was written by Liz Ryan from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.