(Q.4) I HAVE BEEN HIRED TO TAKE CHARGE of a small department in a large company and feel very qualified to do so. The problem is that the department has one assistant who has been here 13 years and is about ten years older than I am. She doesn't have the college degrees that I have to qualify me for the leadership role, but she gives everyone the impression that she knows much more about what should be done because of her many years experience here. How do I handle this? The manager knows what's happening, feels strongly I'm the right person for this job, but he left solving this problem to me. I need help.
(A) YOUR ASSISTANT PROBABLY FEELS THREATENED by you, fears you will find reason to fire her, and is unnerved by not knowing what lies ahead. You must make her feel secure and at ease, and then you magically will feel the same. Go out to lunch together. Flatter her by telling her you realize she knows much more about the inner working of the company and all the people in it, and you're depending upon that expertise to help you both take over this department and work well as a team. Stress that whatever good you do will credit both of you. Show her that your dependence upon her means she can depend upon your loyalty to her. That should be a good start toward creating a pleasant, trusting, working relationship.