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My worst critic is a fellow manager

Marlon (not his real name) is a manager from another department who is always critical, even for trivial things that don’t affect his department’s operations. Yesterday, he reported to our boss that my workers are habitually tardy when our attendance records show that their alleged violations are within allowable limits. I don’t know how to deal with him. What’s the cure? — Rainbow Connection.

“You can’t solve a problem without eliminating its cause,” says Ann Latham in Forbes (2017). Knowing the cause or reason for such problem is your first step. There are many possible reasons that are not apparent from your narration.

Could you be seen as a potential competitor for a plum position within the organization? Is Marlon working hard to rule you out from being selected? Does he not like you personally or does your management style contradict his own? Is there a personality conflict known only to Marlon?

Perhaps at some point you made Marlon look bad in the eyes of top management. Now, he’s trying to get even. He could also be building an empire and wants your job and department.

If you still have no clue about Marlon’s motives, the best thing is for you to discuss your problem with your boss.

If your boss has confidence in you and your ability to perform your job, then there’s nothing to worry about. But what if your boss doesn’t believe in you? That’s a bigger problem. It’s only a matter of time before you lose your job to Marlon or to another manager.

Even if you’re in good graces with your boss, there’s no assurance that he’ll take your side indefinitely. Marlon may be playing a long game whose impact will only be apparent later, the way concrete is eroded by constant exposure to drops of water.

What are the possible remedies? Much depends on how brave you are. Do you have the capacity and strength to tackle Marlon head-on, at least one-on-one where you can discuss all the things that are bothering you? If so, then the first thing to do is to seek the permission of your boss.

Your boss must be informed of your work challenges with Marlon, and the first one to tell you what to do or not to do. He’s on top of almost everything in your department. He should know if your plan to initiate direct confrontation with Marlon will do more harm than good.

If the boss is dissuading you from talking to Marlon, then you have no recourse but to follow his advice. Ask for other options to resolve the issue, such as having your boss act as an objective mediator. If he offers to intercede for you, accept right away.

You must understand that your boss needs to have a productive and an enjoyable workplace. He relies on you and Marlon to achieve organizational goals.

What if the boss tells you to settle the issue without his help? You may have heard some bosses encourage workers to show leadership and solve problems on their own.

If he tells you that, don’t be alarmed. Instead, prepare to meet Marlon to understand his concerns. Take heed of the following considerations:

Find the right time and situation. Ask Marlon to set aside time to discuss your concerns. If he’s asking for the agenda, cite a neutral topic that gives you sufficient flexibility to inject the issues that are bothering you. Be careful, however, not to give him the impression that he is being set up for an “ambush.”

Be diplomatic. Be tactful. Accept your own mistakes and apologize — that is sometimes a good approach to take against a chronic complainer. Be warm and positive at all times, even if Marlon’s body language turns awkward.

Specify your perceived issues. Talk abouthow Marlon views the tardiness issue and how it adversely affects his work or that of his own people. This way, you can zero in on the issue and at the same time counter it by raising the argument that your tardy workers enjoy a grace period before being considered officially late.

Don’t be emotional. You may hear things you don’t like during the meeting. Just the same, maintain your composure. If you lose your cool, you may be unable to act and think logically. If that happens, you’ll be on the losing end. If Marlon continues to act emotionally, propose to adjourn the meeting right away.

Offer assistance, if needed. Perhaps you may have ignored a request for assistance from Marlon in the past. This is a difficult situation. It could be misinterpreted as you thinking he can’t do his job properly.

Bring Rey Elbo’s leadership program called “Superior Subordinate Supervision” to your management team. Or chat with him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or e-mail elbonomics@gmail.com or via https://reyelbo.com

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