Magazine article Management Today

What's Your Problem?

Magazine article Management Today

What's Your Problem?

Article excerpt

Q: There has been some underlying tension between one of my reportees and me since I became national sales director 18 months ago He is five years my senior and seems to have a problem taking orders from someone younger. He is also a bit of an old-timer; he has been at the company for eight years, so always thinks he knows best. It all came to a head last month when we played a 'friendly' game of football. It was supposed to be a laugh, but he was taking it really seriously and when we both went for a ball, it all ended in tears. His dirty tackle meant I had a nasty fall, breaking my leg. I'll be out of plaster in a few weeks and I want to just put the whole incident behind me, but his attitude doesn't show much sign of improving. How do I approach this?

A: When faced with just about any relationship problem, your first instinct should always be to put yourself in the other person's shoes; to try to see things through his eyes; to practise empathy. Empathy's an overused word. It doesn't just mean supercharged sympathy: it's the rare ability to understand another person's feelings.

So back-track 18 months and put yourself in this old-timer's place. He's been with the company for years and prides himself on knowing the ropes. Younger colleagues treat him with respect and ask his advice. Management has hinted that he could well be in line for promotion - and he's mentioned this to his family. Then a younger man is brought in from outside, over his head, as national sales director. …

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