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cookieman's avatar

What to do when your boss becomes your employee?

Asked by cookieman (35112points) June 19th, 2012 from iPhone

I’ve taught at this particular college, as an adjunct, for five years now. A year ago, I transferred to a new department with a new boss. We’ll call her “Becky”.

Shortly after I started teaching for her, Becky was asked to step down as director for reasons I am not privy to. She was, however, given a faculty position.

Meanwhile, a search began for a new director for the department. Well, after a seven month (exhaustive) search, the college chose a new director — me.

So while I’m thrilled with the new job, I do have the added snag that my boss is now my employee.

She is clearly not thrilled with this turn of events and is, understandably cool toward me.

I don’t officially start the gig until July, so I was hoping for some advice as how to best handle this odd situation.

some context
• I did not initially pursue this position. A colleague put my name in for it when it became available.

• Becky was director for over ten years before stepping down.

• I am forty. Becky is about twenty years older than me.

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13 Answers

bongo's avatar

I would treat her the same as all of your other employees. Trust her, respect her and speak to her professionally. If it turns out she has a problem with you speak to her privately about the situation if it arises.
She may well be jealous that you are now above her but at the end of the day you have worked hard and earned your position. You did not undercut anyone to get where you are or stab anyone in the back.
Be a happy boss, not one which goes round being miserable and this will help to keep your employees spirits high but at the same time if she does rebel from what you are doing you will have to treat her just like anybody else. If you start to treat her any differently from your other employees you will have a problem with them on your hands too saying that you are discriminating against them.

mattbrowne's avatar

It won’t work. Either one of you will need to transfer.

bongo's avatar

@mattbrowne I disagree, I think if they both act professionally about the situation no one will have to transfer. They are adults, not teenagers and should be able to respect authority whoever their boss is. If not, then they obviously are not suitable to work in a team such as you would find in a school or college.

picante's avatar

Congratulations on the directorship!

I think this could work – and I think you have all the power in the situation. Of course, Becky’s “attitude” will need to be one of respectfulness and professionalism. You can lead by example, as I’m sure you’ve already one. Treat her with the utmost respect – seek out those areas where you can turn to her for mentorship. It’s such a great opportunity for you two to model a good working relationship to others in the department. I realize this is much easier said than done, and I wish you success!

cookieman's avatar

@bongo: Good advice. I am an upbeat person and very much about the team and accomplishing things together. I will certainly make every effort to treat her the same. I’m hoping to start with a clean slate for the whole staff.

Thank you @picante.

@mattbrowne: I certainly hope your wrong, as I have no intention of going anywhere.

mattbrowne's avatar

@mattbrowne – Well, it’s been my experience. I can imagine that other people have had a different experience. I agree if both act professionally about the situation it should work. Let’s hope it does in your case.

ucme's avatar

Oh, I think something like this is in order.

nikipedia's avatar

No advice, but congratulations!

cookieman's avatar

@ucme: Ha!

@nikipedia: Thank you my dear.

chyna's avatar


wundayatta's avatar

I think it would help to take her to lunch and talk it out. Acknowledge the awkwardness. Explain your goals. Ask her how she feels you can best work together. Work out a way of communicating effectively.

Let her know, of course, how you will be making decisions. Those decisions may not always go as she wants them. Will she be able to still carry out the decisions? If not, would she like help transferring or something? Well, that’s probably not an option.

The thing is, in academia, this kind of thing happens all the time. People become department chairs and replace other people who were former chairs. Hell, in some departments, there are former university presidents, or former elected officials. There’s a former mayor teaching in our Poly Sci dept.

They are faculty and have tenure and you really have to treat her as you treat the rest of the faculty. They have a say and you can’t touch them, but they can’t really change things for you, that much, either. Professional respect is what you want. Also trust that over time, she will get used to the change.

She may be feeling a hit to her pride, but she will get used to it. Just don’t see yourself as fighting her or having a problem with her, and hopefully she will be able to be professional. Not that she has much to do with running whatever department you run, now. Her job is different. Although I’m sure she has advice. Still, you’re on the same team, and hopefully you can minimize any rivalries born or jealousy. Open communications should help with that.

cookieman's avatar

Thank you @wundayatta. Very good advice. I appreciate it.

cookieman's avatar

I followed much of your advice fellow jellies and, almost three months into the gig, things are going well between Becky and I.

She’s a lovely woman, very funny. She now seems almost relieved to no longer be running the show.

Thank you folks.

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