It's the promotion you always wanted. You worked hard for it. You earned it.
And now a colleague is undermining you because of it.
Maybe the coworker is jealous you got the job. Maybe they have more experience or qualifications. Or maybe they're just a jerk.
In any case, it's a direct challenge to your leadership role. In business, this is a common but uncomfortable situation. The subversion must be handled quickly and wisely.
For new managers, it's a key test of leadership.
Here are five tips for leaders to deal with the naysayers hurting your ability to move your team forward.
The best way to neuter resistance is to talk about it.
If the team environment is right -- and if the culture can benefit from a reset -- call a meeting to address the elephant in the room. Let everyone know you're aware you have detractors and you want to confront facts and embrace reality. "There are times when some of you might feel more qualified for this job than me," you might say, "but I want to remind you that the leader's job is not to be The Genius. It's not to be The Expert. A leader's job is to achieve results through other people. My job is to help all of us rise to a higher level. Hopefully you'll see over time that my transparency and vulnerability will translate into growth for all of us."
Speak one on one with the naysayer.
Sometimes the best approach is to talk privately with your detractor. Ask for candor. You might say something like, "I'm the formal leader of this team, but you may be the cultural leader. I appreciate the influence you have on this team. And I want to see how you can be a champion to move this team forward." Handled correctly, this conversation can help that person feel validated and respected. And nine times out of 10, they will rise to the occasion.
Be frank about your shortcomings.
If you were promoted from within, your time in the trenches may be one of your great advantages. It also may create problems, especially if you ever complained about your job or company management. Call it out. Say, "I've handled this situation wrong and had this attitude, and I'm not especially proud of that. I'm going to work on doing better. I have an increased self-awareness around my new role as a leader. My job is to lift you up and shine a light on our team's accomplishments within the organization."
Make sure your boss has your back.
Remember the person who believed in you enough to give you the job? Check in with that leader for advice. Chances are your supervisor has faced a similar issue. Should you transfer the malcontent to another team? Give an ultimatum? Learn which avenue your boss advises. Early in my career, I was promoted into a position over a lot of people who were more seasoned than me. And they started undermining me. I brought the issue to my leader, who listened carefully, then offered a blunt response: "Do you want to fire them or do you want me to fire them?" We didn't end up terminating anyone, but I never forgot the strong vote of confidence from my boss, which emboldened me to address the problem myself.
Don't reward bad behavior.
If someone is undermining you, there may be temptation to buy off the problem employee with a raise or new title. Don't do it. Negotiating with malcontents sends a terrible message, and appeasement rarely works in the long-term. Don't give people that power over you.
At the end of the day, the fundamental principle is talking straight. Don't couch the problem in generalities. Address it. You can talk straight while being diplomatic and considerate of other people's mindsets, points of view, insecurities, concerns, and fears.
Often you can win your detractors over. But sometimes there is no other choice but to remove the person from the company. Don't be afraid to do it.