Lost Super Job, Now Assistant To New Supervisor!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about unclear job description and threat to friendship by change in level:

I work for a company in my hometown where I have been employed for 4 1/2 years. I was promoted to supervisor after 2 years at this job. They had a change of upper management soon after I was promoted; the Quality person had gotten the plant manager’s job. He had a lady that was his assistant that when I was off work for 2 days. They posted my job, and the previous manager had tried to get in touch with me in that time to warn me of the job posting. When I returned to work the 3rd day, I found that my job was posted.

Consequently the lady that was working with the new plant manager had gotten the supervisor position, where she had only been employed with the company for 1 year. I was upset as I was led to believe that I was not losing my job title. They then posted a job for assistant supervisor, and I felt that I should not apply, for the mere fact that if I could not handle the supervisor job, I wasn’t capable of doing the assistant’s job.

We have not gotten along very well since the company (one of the top bosses) had asked me to take the assistant position. I had asked repeatedly for a job description, but to no avail. Sometimes she thought I was “stepping on her feet. Now she has told me that I cannot have social contact with some of the employees, some of which I have been friends with over the years and have worked with from the time we were hired. She told me that they are only “peon assemblers.”

That we are upper management, and if they should come to me with a complaint, I should get rude with them and tell them that ,”I don’t want to here it.” If I go to higher management, she gets aggravated with me and doesn’t talk to me. She has gone to upper management, I found out today, and has told them that we do not get along. They have told her to put me back in assembly (which I do not mind), but please let me know where I stand. I have been a good employee, and a lot of the people there understand how this is going. It bothers me to think I should disregard the friends that I do have. She thinks that she and I should be close, but she said to me, if I don’t go by her wishes, I would lose my job. Could you please help me with this as it disturbs me very much. Thank you. ,

Signed, Troubled

Dear Troubled:

Thank you for sharing your concerns with us. I realize that time and space limits that amount of detail that can be given in letters to us, but it seems to me there are some unwritten details about this situation, which might explain some aspects of it. I can imagine how frustrating and hurtful it was to lose your supervisory position. Could it be that those in higher management had issues with some aspect of your work, at that point? Had your evaluations always been high? It sounds as though the manager who arranged for the posting of the position wanted the current supervisor in the spot and worked with Human Resources or the personnel section to make that happen. Is it possible you had conflict with him?

The fact that the current supervisor took your place would make you feel uncomfortable with her and the fact that she knows that would make her feel uncomfortable with you. That’s an unfortunate circumstance. I think it would be very difficult to become the assistant of the person who replaced you in a position!

The things that have created the most recent issues seem to be very specific in nature. If there has been documented counseling about issues that concern the supervisor and she has received support from upper management about those things, there may be nothing you can do. If you have never been counseled and those issues are the ones that have led to you losing your position, it would seem you have cause to ask for a review by HR or others.

Be prepared to explain your viewpoint about the matters that apparently have concerned the supervisor. For example, it appears that the supervisor thinks you have too close a relationship to subordinate personnel. One aspect of supervision is that often there needs to be a work separation between the supervisor and friends. The friendship can continue, but interactions at work may need to change dramatically. If you can show that your interactions with friends has been focused on work and that friendship has not created any issues, that will counter her concerns about it. It also sounds as though your supervisor thinks that your friends come to you with too many complaints, comments or concerns. I base that on your remark that she says to tell them that you don’t want to hear it, when they come to you. If you have an explanation for some aspect of that, be prepared to offer it in your memo about this matter.

I can’t imagine that your supervisor could actually be quoted as saying, “Be rude to them.” So, I would guess she told you to not spend time listening to them or to cut them off when they started talking to you about an issue–and you view that as being rude. If you write the memo, ensure that you are as accurate as possible about what was actually said and done and why you think she is in error.It may be that your supervisor has felt you have been resistant to her requests until now and that you have not been a full supporter of her efforts.

I agree that a job description would be helpful. But even without a job description, it is clear that an assistant is one who assists by making life easier for the person they are supporting. You may have been so used to supervising that you continued in that role, rather than stepping down from it. As a result, she’d rather not have to keep working with you and HR has agreed. On the other hand, the supervisor may feel so awkward about you and the situation from the very beginning that she is hypersensitive to any actions on your part that she views as undermining her authority.If you wish to keep your position, you will likely need to make a commitment to behave and perform as your supervisor requests, even though you don’t like it. That may not be worth it to you!

You may find that you will enjoy work more and do better if you are not forced to be in a situation that would be a challenge to most people. However, if you do decide to ask for a review of the matter, use the memo format suggested, and state the reasons you think you have done a good job, why you know you could continue to do well in the future, what you think has caused the conflicts and how that could be remedied. If you believe she has clearly been out of line with her requests, demands or comments, list those issues and ask for HR clarification about them.

Explain your concern about not having a job description. Ask for the chance to talk to someone about the matter so that you can get a full hearing. It may not make a difference, but it may. At the least it may encourage some managerial review of the current supervisor. Your situation is one that almost anyone would find challenging and very difficult. I hope these thoughts will help you develop a plan of action to either maintain your position or to find a situation at work that will be better for you. Resolution to unhappy work situations begins with thinking WEGO, not how much wrong has been done to you. Learning what is expected and when is a continuing process in building a WEGO working relationship.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.