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Keeping Peace in the Workplace

How to handle employees when they're not happy with a decision you've made

Q: I want to promote one of my employees to assistant manager, but she's only been with the company for less than a year. She's a hard worker and the most qualified for the position. What can I do so others who've been with the company longer don't resent the promoted employee or me? I don't want the others to feel unimportant. The rumors are already flying. Am I being paranoid or is this a normal reaction?

A: Your reaction is perfectly normal. Any emotionally healthy person and proactive business owner would be concerned about how his or her employees are going to react to a significant change within the organization. Certainly this will change relationships to some degree. Make sure the changes are such that you, your subordinates and your company are better off because of them.

It's important for both you and your new assistant manager to understand that it's natural for her peers to have negative feelings about her good fortune in being promoted. Some may feel they should have been chosen over her. Some may feel the things they've done and said about her in the past will be held against them since she's now in a position of power. Remember, these feelings are to be expected. Rumors are natural. Saying negative things about why you chose her for the position is normal. However, they won't be long-term problems unless you or the promoted employee feed them. One positive thing you can do is to advise her on ways to be most effective during the first few months in her new position. If both of you follow these suggestions, it should lead to minimal negative reactions and maximum positive ones.

First, remember your mission and your assistant manager's mission is to create successful employees. If everything you both do is directed toward that end, not only will your subordinates be successful but you and your organization will be also. Never compete with them. Always give them credit for their ideas and successes. If you have their best interests at heart and show it often, you'll find that apprehensions about your choice for assistant manager and her ability to do the job will subside quickly.

Second, you and your assistant manager should quickly link yourselves in your employees' minds with positive consequences. Start by getting their ideas on things that can be done to make the workplace more productive and employee-friendly. You don't have to accept them all, but listen without criticism. Systematically identify what things are important to your employees-from what they like about work to what they're trying to achieve in their personal lives. You may have heard that "Familiarity breeds contempt." It's not true. You can be a friend and still be an effective business owner and manager. You just have to make sure your friendships don't interfere with your management decisions and actions.

Third, find ways to make jobs easier and more exciting by recognizing, on a daily basis, employee accomplishments and improvements no matter how small. Toward that end, advise your new assistant manager to find ways to measure daily job performance. Put the numbers on a graph so each individual knows how he or she is doing. Display group performance on a publicly posted graph and provide positive reinforcement for all improvements.

If you and your newly promoted employee do these things, you'll find you've created a workplace that brings out the best in people. Who could complain about that?

Aubrey C. Daniels, Ph.D., founder and CEO of management consulting firm Aubrey Daniels & Associates (ADA), is an internationally recognized author, speaker and expert on management and human performance issues. For more about ADA's seminars and consulting services or to order Aubrey's bookBringing Out the Best in People: How to Apply the Astonishing Power of Positive Reinforcement, visit www.aubreydaniels.com, or contact at (800) 223-6191.


The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.

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