I was hired to build up a new department in a successful company. Previously one of the managers had my job on top of her own. Now she’s my “customer” and is working against me. I thought she’d be happy to be free of the extra work. Suggestions? D.P., New York, NY
While it’s tempting to make assumptions about what’s happening, it is making this situation more difficult for you. You’re assuming she was burdened and wanted to get rid of the work you’re now doing. What if she really liked it and wished it was her only job? Or what if she applied for the job and was told she was much more valuable where she was? You’re also assuming that she’s actively targeting you (“working against me”). What behaviors make you think that’s so? Are there other possible explanations for why she’s behaving as she does?
You’ll get further if you focus on the outcome you want rather than speculating on the reasons for her behavior. Make an appointment with her and go to her office. It’s important that you make the effort to go to her since she’s your customer. Explain that you’re concerned you might have gotten off on the wrong foot and that you want to make sure you/your team is being built to serve the needs of the company. Give due deference to her input. Many new hires are so intent on proving their worth they ignore valuable input that can make them more successful more quickly. Think of this as the first in a series of conversations with the intent of making sure you’re both aligned.
Really listen to what she’s telling you. Repeat what she says back to her to make sure you’re hearing what she’s actually saying. It will ensure you don’t miss important input while making sure she knows you’re really listening. Good luck!