Advice: "I got promoted and my old coworker is now my direct report. He's jealous and making my life miserable."

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Dear Quota Team, 

I’m in my fifth year working in sales, and I’m almost positive it’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. This past year, I was promoted to sales manager. It’s my first management position, but so far, I’m loving it, and taking my responsibilities seriously. 

But there’s someone who isn’t loving it: a guy who is on my team who used to be my coworker. It’s as if he’s unhappy that I got promoted while he is still selling. When we were coworkers, he was generally pretty cool towards me, and we never had any issues.

But now, he makes it pretty obvious that he doesn’t respect me as a leader. He sighs through sales meetings and messes around on his phone, he responds with “k” or “yeah” when I message him asking to do something, and sometimes, he even completely ignores emails where I’ve asked him a question until I send a follow-up. He also refers to me as “boss” and “big guy,” which he obviously does in a condescending way, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he talks about me to other team-members.

I’ve gone out of my way to try to be nice to this guy, but no matter how patient and respectful I am, he keeps doing this passive-aggressive act. Any advice on how to turn him around? He puts up numbers, but he’s not a top producer or anything. 

Frustrated in Boston 

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Dear Frustrated, 

Congratulations on your promotion. It sounds like you’re committed to your career, and that alone will put you a step ahead of thousands of others who are not. Your situation isn’t that unusual, in sales or in any other profession. When someone gets promoted, there will be others who believe that they’re more deserving, or that you’re not. 

You say you’ve gone out of your way to be nice to him, and, presumably, you’ve shown him more respect than he’s showing you. Since you’ve already tried that approach, maybe it’s time to try something different. 

You are his manager, and he reports to you. If he’s unwilling to behave in a professional way, then he’s probably not a good fit for his role. It’s time for you to step up and be upfront about what’s expected from him, so that he gets an opportunity to act professionally before you show him the door. 

Set up a one on one meeting, and go over all of the things that he’s doing that you don’t think are acceptable. Be sure to stick to things that are provable and obvious – for instance, don’t accuse him of badmouthing you behind your back without evidence.  Be clear and direct, and try to keep your emotions out of it. Unless he’s a fool, he’ll get the picture. After the meeting, send an email documenting the things you’ve discussed. While there are always two sides to every story, the fact remains that you’re his boss. If he can’t accept that fact, he should find someone else to work for. Good luck.

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