My column, Workplace Referee, is designed to help employees and managers gain better insight into each other's points of view (POV). Have a situation you'd like me to address? Please submit it by email HERE. Don't worry, I'll keep your identity private.
I'm Richer Than My Boss - And She's Not Happy About It
Employee POV: I recently hosted a party at my house and had invited some co-workers. My boss overheard us talking and I felt bad, so I invited her to come over too. When she arrived, she was taken aback by my house. My wife and I inherited some money and have invested wisely. Thus, we are pretty financially successful. Since the event, she has made comments daily at work about my wealth and how I don't need the job. It's embarrassing and annoying. She also excluded me from a new project meeting. When I asked why, she said she was putting some other people on it to gain experience. I'm starting to think she is jealous and trying to push me out. I like this job and my co-workers. It's true, I don't need this job, but I like working. Why is she acting like this? It's as if I broke an unwritten rule.
Manager POV: My employee always has parties at his house. I hear the staff talking about them constantly. He recently invited me to one and I felt like I shouldn't say no. When I got there, it became clear he's trying to woo the team with his wealth. I always thought he was gunning for my job, but now I know it's true. The worst part? He doesn't even need this position. He's got plenty of money. Meanwhile, I do. I'm going to have to pay more attention to his actions in the office now. It's clear he has an agenda to take my job.
Who's at fault?
While you may initially think the boss is the one at fault here, in my experience both sides should share some blame. It appears the employee has been befriending the staff and excluding the manager from these events for some time. He even admits to saying he only invited the boss because she overheard a conversation about the party. Why doesn't he want to build a better relationship with the boss?
At the same time, the boss is clearly reacting poorly in the office since the party. The comments about her employee's wealth are inappropriate. Additionally, her actions indicate she has a personal agenda to hurt the career of the employee. This can be seen by all the other staff members who will now be concerned about their own job security. It sends a message of distrust and creates fear amongst teammates. What if they stay friends with the co-worker? Could their careers become a target too?
What can both sides learn from this?
In this situation, I would advise each side as follows:
Employee Takeaway: It's okay to be friends with your co-workers and to host events at your home, but understand the ramifications when you exclude your boss on an on-going basis. It's one thing to have the occasional party to blow off steam and get away from management. However, not including your boss at all is a wasted opportunity. You could be strengthening the entire team's bond. Plus, if you want to get ahead in your career, you should be able to build strong relationships with everyone on the team. Especially, your boss.
Manager Takeaway: If you find yourself concerned an employee is trying to take your job, then it's time to assess your skills to determine what strengths you feel he possesses that you don't. Focus on your own growth. Remember, you're setting the example. How you react to competition says a lot about you as a leader. Great bosses know how to get the best out of all employees, are confident in their abilities, and don't feel threatened by co-workers because they know they are delivering a lot of value to the organization.