New employee intimidated by hard-working veteran: What to do?

Predecessor worked outrageous hours and thinks she should too

Employees who work long hours can be valuable. But they should come with warning labels.

Not only can they burn themselves out, they also can intimidate co-workers who feel pressure to keep up.

That’s the situation Jill Cooper faced when relatively new hire admitted she was intimidated by her predecessor.

Can’t work every day

I don’t think I have what it takes to do this job,” says Amy Watkins.

“What makes you say that?” Jill replied.

“I can’t work nights, weekends and every holiday,” said Amy. ” I have a life.”

“Whoa,” said Jill. “I don’t want you to work insane hours. Just 40 good ones every week.”

Tough act to follow

“But that’s what Kathy did,” said Amy. “I don’t think she ever goes home.”

“I want you to be you, not Kathy,” said Jill. “I’m very confident you can handle this.”

“You may think so,” said Amy. “But I don’t think Kathy thinks so. She’s having trouble letting go.”

“I’m sure she has lots of advice and suggestions,” said Jill. “But that’s because she’s as dedicated as she is. I suggest you use her as a resource. After all, she did the job for a lot of years.”

Embarrassing truth

“Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate her help” said Amy. “But –

“But what?” asked Jill.

“I didn’t want to admit this, because it’s embarrassing ,” said Amy. “And it’s also aggrevating.”

“What is?” asked Jill.

“She’s giving me more than advise and suggestions. Not only is she doing her job, but last week, she actually called some of my contacts – without even telling me! – because she didn’t think I was getting to them fast enough.

“Now those people are confused about who they’re supposed to be dealing with. It’s bad enough that half of them still ask for her when they call.”

“I don’t know what to do. I can’t work the kind of schedule she works. And I can’t deal with her evaluating every little thing I do. I’d really like a different assignment.”

The Big Question

Jill knew Kathy’s intentions were good, and that Amy was going to need Kathy’s help from time to time. But she also knew Amy needed a confidence boost and a chance to prove herself.

If you were in Jill’s situation, what would you do? One of the ideas below offered by our readers might provide you some guidance.

Kathy needs to back off unless Amy asks for help

I believe in getting people together, telling them what I want, and expecting the best of them. So I’d meet with them and talk about my observations. I’d thank Kathy for helping Amy, but tell her to let Amy handle things for now on unless Amy asks for help. That would give Amy a vote of confidence and let Kathy know I appreciate her efforts, but that she needs to let Amy do her job on her own unless Amy seeks her out.

Phil Smith, Associate Manager Great-West Life, Greenwood Village CO

Give positive feedback, remove Kathy from the situation

Jill’s confident Amy can get the job in 40 hours. And if Amy is a good worker, I’m sure she’d be willing to put in an extra hour here and there if needed. If Jill has gotten any positive feedback on what Amy has been doing, she should make sure Amy hears it. Regarding Kathy, if she has enough time to keep one foot in her own role, there may be something else to get her involved in. It sounds like Kathy’s just stepping on Amy’s toes, maybe because she misses her old job. Once Kathy’s removed from the situation, Amy will probably be able to do what she needs to do in the allotted time.


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  1. Alli Polin says

    I’m with Phil. Yet another thought provoking and learning opportunity that so many managers face on a daily basis. Thanks!

  2. Karen Schultz says

    How someone else makes you feel is your issue to answer to. No one should make you feel intimidated by working hard, enjoying their work, passionate about what they do in life. Unless there is physical, verbal or property abuse in play, intimidation is not an accuate descriptive. People cannnot work off the clock unless they are salaried. If they are salaried they are in the position of responsibility to make sure a contact or agreement is fulfilled, as stated. If they are salaried and enjoy their job, they earned that position. New employees are observers their first 18 months and then they are responsible to fulfill their job profitably. Anyting they are responsible for they have the responsibility to make sure they have the correct tools to get it done as agreed. A job description is the least expected at a profitable result.

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