Your Office Coach: Former managers often have trouble adjusting to other leadership styles

Marie G. McIntyre
Marie G. McIntyre Tribune News Service

Q: One of my employees recently spoke to me in a very rude and demanding manner. “George” was upset because I decided to let the staff create our weekly department schedule. I had previously made these assignments myself.

After the first scheduling meeting, George came into my office and vehemently declared that my decision was wrong. He said I should always assign duties instead of allowing employees to figure it out themselves. He stated that he knows how to run things because he has 30 years of management experience.

I was so shocked by this angry outburst that I didn’t know what to say. However, I believe I should let George know that his behavior was inappropriate and that he must accept my decisions whether he likes them or not. Is this the right thing to do?

A: George’s temper tantrum was totally out of line, so you should definitely establish some boundaries. Unfortunately, managers who return to an employee role are often slow to realize that they are no longer in charge. As a result, they sometimes make the mistake of trying to direct their boss.

If George is not accustomed to consensus decision-making, he may also be frustrated by the time required to consider different viewpoints and negotiate a solution. But even if he prefers a more command-and-control approach, he must now adjust to your leadership style.

When talking with George, you need to avoid becoming angry or upset. Instead, you should calmly and firmly make it clear that this incident cannot be repeated.

For example: “George, after so many years as a manager, being an employee must be difficult. However, your outburst last week was completely unacceptable. Although I’m interested in your suggestions, they need to be presented in an appropriate manner. As for creating the schedule, I believe our team can handle it, so I plan to continue that practice. You may not agree with this approach, but you do need to accept it.”

Should George continue to be a problem, consider asking your boss to meet with both of you and reiterate these points. Some challenging employees only pay attention when a higher-up delivers the message.

Q: Although I am personally well-regarded, I don’t believe this company really values my profession. For that reason, I have begun looking for another job. I recently received an unexpected promotion, but I can’t decide whether to mention it during interviews. What do you think?

A: I see no reason to avoid sharing this good news with potential employers. In fact, it may help to alleviate concerns about why you’re seeking employment elsewhere. Since interviewers almost always ask about an applicant’s reason for leaving, you can easily include the promotion in your response.

For example: “My current company has actually been very good to me. In fact, I recently received a promotion. However, I was interested in this position because of the strong focus on market research.”

The point is that you are not trying to escape a bad situation, but are attracted by the job they have available. Employers always prefer candidates who seem excited about working for them.

Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.” Send in questions and get free coaching tips at, or follow her on Twitter @officecoach.