In a recent re-org shuffle where a number of managers have been moved round the organisation - I have been given a new team. (Note: no interviews where held for any of the positions... it was simply a re-shuffle)

The team that I am now responsible for is significantly smaller than previous, however the challenges are significant.

I am in my mid 30's and the youngest in the team.  The majority of team this does not create any issue, however there is one individual where this is an issue.  He is relatively new into the organisation and sees himself as extremely experienced.  He is approximately mid 50's and overall I am finding it a challenge to manage him.  I believe he resents me being his boss and feels that he should lead the team.   Some signs that have led me to this conclusion are:

  • He speaks to me as if he is speaking as a representive of the team (the other 8)
  • He often take the liberty to provide me with his input on my role specifically and on what is going well and what isnt.
  • He resents me asking for details or providing him with direction.
  • Phrases like used are: "I have been round the block a few times".
  • On providing him with a request to do something, he requests me to fully justify why it is required.  E.g. A request for project information and status would require full justification - instead of being just automatic.

There is an issue here as his previous manager informed me that he also believes this individual resents being managed by me.

What makes the situation more difficult is that he is reponsible to build a service and a subteam (recruiting another 5-10 people).... and he is very much under performing.  I personally feel exposed.  I don't feel that I know the current status of existing scope or the roadmap for the future.

I have tried giving him a simple direction and let him paint the details and strategy... no success - nothing delivered (despite clear timings and deliverables given).  I then tried to add more meat to the bone and provide him more details and direction... nothing...  and so on... it is getting to the stage that there are serious reservations about his lack of performance.

So there are two issues here - (a) Under performance and (b) He resents me managing him.

To add icing to the cake.... my boss knows him from previous companies and is the one that brought him in.

Thoughts? Help? Suggestions?  I would like to know any suggestions on how I should address this issue.




robin_s's picture
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called "How to Manage a Disgruntled Non-promoted Direct".    I am dealing with a similar situation - not the age difference, taking on a team as a newcomer to the company (i.e. they hired me from outside rather than promote from within).  It's not easy, and a year into it I am still working on the relationships. 

First question:  Are you using the MT trinity (one-on-ones, feedback, coaching)? 

naraa's picture
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 That´s a tough one to solve.  I think it might help if you forget a bit about all the past history and age diference and concentrate on the work at hand and on his performance.  Act with him as you would with a 30 years old employee.   I have found out that some times the byas is on us.  We (younger managers) have difficulty managing (mostly communicating as smoothly) with older employees.  Most of the times it is a lot easier to manage younger guys because they think more like us, they have the same sort of working strategy, meaning they are much more open to innovation, and also can do more things simultaneously (in general).   

If the guy is indeed good, and he may have staff to add to the team, look at it as an interesting challenge and find ways to get it working.  If you don´t then you may need to let him go, but you must try, and sometimes in trying you must allow for some inefficiency along the way and not get too bugger out by it.  You have to realize he may not do as many things at once as you do and not do the things the same way.  But that is not necessarily bad if he can do one good thing at the time. 

You are saying that he needs an explanation for everything you ask him to do, but once he gets the explanation is he complying to it?  If he is, then I guess you will just need to spend more time with him, both in directing and controlling what he is doing (even if that is tough on you). 

Take a look at the DISC model and try to find out what sort of personality he is.  I find that specially useful in the feedback model.  You may need to be careful with feedback with this guy, be sure you are doing one-on-ones for a while (three months), but DISC model helps you identify what is important for the guy and communicate with him with that respect.  If he is speaking to you as if he was speaking for the team, then perhaps talking about how his actions impact the team, or some larger goal in the organisation might be good.

Some of the things you are saying I find quite good to have people on my team that will tell me that.  For example, of him having the liberty to tell you what is going wel and what isn´t.   This is good, not bad.  You don´t even have to respond to him, analyse what he is saying, filter what do not serve the purpose and take the good out of it.  Be open, don´t think you are the owner of the truth.  What I have learned to see over the years (I am getting to my 40th´s now) is that things are never black and white, there is probably truth in what he is telling you.  Find the gray area in it, accept the criticism.

If he tells you staff, "I have been around the block a few times."  He sure has.  Don´t judge him, don´t assume when he says that he is saying you haven´t.  He may in fact add to your fresh energy and new ideas, which he probably don´t have, but he may be able to add to you with experience and easiness in certain situations you may don´t. 

You are saying you have given him staff to do and he hasn´t delivered and at the same time you are saying he needs to build a team of 5 to 10 people.   Are you sure you are not asking him staff he cannot deliver, but he may be able to deliver once he has the team?  What is the recruitment procedure?  My guess is you may have a say on who is hired?  You must identify what the guy is good on and what he is not (and sometimes what he can do and what he cannot).   Give him more responsibilities on what he is good and get people working for him good on what he is not, and you may be able to find your problem.   You may need though to elaborate a bit more on how the things you are asking him to do affect a bigger picture to get him convinced and get him on board.  If you get good people working for him, even if he is not too good, the work will get done, and you will either have enough time to find a way to work with him or to fire him if you finally don´t.





robin_s's picture
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There are quite a few of us on here who, in the words of the troublesome employee referred to in this post, "have been around the block a few times"   Your words might be taken by some as offensive.  I think that one's openness to innovation and ability to multitask has more to do with personality and behavior style than with age.

"We (younger managers) have difficulty managing (mostly communicating as smoothly) with older employees.  Most of the times it is a lot easier to manage younger guys because they think more like us, they have the same sort of working strategy, meaning they are much more open to innovation, and also can do more things simultaneously (in general). "  

mkirk's picture
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Hi Gustavo,

Lots of very good advice for you here. If I could add a few words - you don't need to worry about him. I would suggest your responsibilities are to the organisation, your team, your career and your family (not necessarily in that order), so 'stay frosty', smile and get on with your responsibilities.

You appear to be doing the right things, if he doesn't want to play, then perhaps it's no big deal for you. Maybe go checkout the MT casts on feedback, decide what stage you're at and go from there. Do your 1on1's, give appropriate and clear feedback, make sure you communicate really well with your boss and work at your level, not his.

Things may or may not work out with this guy but don't let it affect you or your career.

Good luck


naraa's picture
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Gustavo, you may find the book "Managing the older worker" usefull. Listen to the hbr idea Cast interview with Peter cappelli author of the book in the link bellow to find out if it is usefull for your situation. He explains the issue and give some advice for younger manager managing the older in a much more precise, better and thorough way than i did. I do not know if this is your situation or just the guy not performing, but it is worth listening to and reflecting on it, if not in this situation you may come across it in the future.

JohnG's picture

Hi Gustavo,

You've really put a lot of detail into your post, which certainly helps others trying to understand your situation. Obviously no one wants to have a direct that resents working for them, however I suggest you try and focus on any performance issues because it's more effective and they present the biggest risk to you.

Without meeting your employee and seeing you interact I can't tell if the employee really has an issue. Mark & Mike are very clear about trying to avoid that thought process in general (and to focus on whether the employee is doing the job). Robin S pointed out the casts on "How to Manage a Disgruntled Non-promoted Direct" and I'd also suggest giving them a listen if you haven't already.

You say that you are asking him to do things, and that he is not. This is clearly an issue you need to address with him. I also suggest that you consider how you are asking. Firstly asking, if they accept, increases the employees commitment to the task. Ensure you are clear on what needs to be done (email me the report) and by when (by 15:00 Wednesday). Hopefully the clarity will be enough to improve his performance, and if it isn't it removes ambiguity when you're giving feedback.

Most of your other observations aren't actually problems (I wouldn't like them either, but a problem is something that affects your performance) in themselves. Acting like he is talking for the team, although irritating, isn't actually an issue. If however he is both doing it in front of the team, and demeaning you / challenging your authority then that is an issue that needs feedback. However, again, I honestly believe you should take the opportunity to ask the other members of the team what they think. He is experienced, and it is possible that he is either accurately representing there position or they agree with him. It would be a shame to ignore some sage advise from him just because he presents the information confrontationally.

I hope things go well for you.


gusmac's picture


Firstly, many thanks for all the great feedback and long responses that I have received regarding this post.  You have all helped me tremendously and since my initial post a lot of progress has been made.  Here is an update on where I am at and some of my key learnings.

(1) Comments from Previous Manager: I had a discussion with his previous manager, who I replaced, regarding another topic.  He mentioned to me, unprompted, that this individual does have a "chip on his sholder" (these exact words) for me managing him. This was good news for me as it confirmed that indeed there was an issue here and it was not my preception.

(2) Focus on Performance (the real problem):  One of the key learnings from your comments and the podcast "How to Manage a Disgruntled Non-promoted Direct", is to focus on performance and not his digruntled behaviour.  I previously never reacted or acknowledged this individuals disgruntled behaviour with fear that addressing it head on would not be a good idea.  Your comments and podcast confirmed this strategy and I have continued to focus on performance and deliverables.  

Any comments such as "I have been round the block a few times" or comments about my role, I have let go by and focused all discussions on performance and deliverables of him and his team (extremely valuable feedback - thanks!!).  In doing so, I have formalised exactly what was expected of him in writing and tracked progress in detail.  In truth, I have moved away from managing him largely unstructured and with less formality to a more structured and rigurous approach.  I am now using the MT Trinity approach.... should have used it earlier.

(3) DISC Model: I have used the model to review what he is good at, his strengths and his weaknesses.  I have come to the conclusion that he is not one for "setting the strategy", instead he is an individual that follows.  I have partly addressed this through structured and formality of performance management.  Furthermore, he views himself as too senior to be completing some tasks such as project admin - therefore I have allocated him a percentage of time from my admin assistant to help him. 


So far the outcomes of this new approach have been positive.  There is still a long way to go - early days.  He is still underperforming compared to his peers. But thanks to your detailed feedback and comments I feel better equiped to work through issues.

Many thanks