How to manage a personality clash with a senior colleague

I’m really unhappy in my current job – a standalone role in a company with 100 staff. I have had various personality clashes with my new line manager, and have submitted a grievance. They have now been promoted to an even higher position, and the power has gone to their head. Aside from the legal issues, how can I manage this situation?

Advsier: John Lees, career strategist and author

When airline pilots learn to fly, they are taught a particular method for dealing with emergencies such as engine failure. Rather than spending time focusing on what has gone wrong, they focus on what is still working to keep the plane in the air, and then build on that resource.

When staff get into battles with organisations and submit a grievance, as you have done, they tend to spend too much energy focused on unwinnable battles. You may have a fantasy of justice, where your boss gets a reprimand, you are praised for your hard work and loyalty, and the company gives you a heartfelt apology. The chances of this happening are slimmer than winning the lottery. Think about the end game – how is this situation likely to resolve itself?

Get some honest feedback from colleagues about the ‘clash’. Is it a matter of communication? Stating clearly what you need and expect is important – but it’s more astute to establish what it is your boss needs and expects. Sometimes colleagues seek a quiet life are you asking for guidance too often and not acting enough on your own initiative? Sometimes it’s about control are you checking details enough?

The outcome of a grievance procedure rarely makes for a good working environment. The chances are, whether your claim is upheld or dismissed, you won’t want to carry on working in this team – but you could find a way forward from here.

I’m a great believer in giving organisations at least one more chance to get things right. There are two guiding principles:

  • Only ask for something your company can deliver. In your case, this is very likely to be clearer goals, or moving you so that you spend more time working under another manager.
  • You need to offer something in return if the problem is solved – renewed commitment and enthusiasm will do for starters.

Look very carefully at these issues before you become even more bogged down.

John Lees is one of the UK’s best-known career coaches and the author of the best-selling How To Get A Job You’ll Love (McGraw-Hill). The book is now available in its 2007-08 edition.

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