One of my subordinates is openly gunning for my job. How do I defuse the tension that he is causing?
"It's good to be the king," Mel Brooks said as Louis XVI in "The History of the World: Part I." It's good, that is, until someone wants to knock you off the throne.
While it's not your job to help your employee take your position from you, there is a strategy that may help defuse the situation by embracing it. The first step is to acknowledge his ambition by holding a conversation with him privately, in which you let him know you understand he would like to advance to your role or one like it someday. Assure him that you would be glad to help him learn what your job entails so he can possess a fuller understanding about the skills, knowledge, and abilities necessary to perform your duties successfully.
Next, set up a time or times to review the job your subordinate is currently doing. Outline the strengths and weaknesses he demonstrates in that position, then show what additional skills are required for your kind of job and the areas he needs to develop to qualify for it. Last, you might give him specific tasks that would help him hone the skills he'd need and track his performance with those assignments. By calmly and openly dealing with the situation this way, you not only neutralize any friction, but also demonstrate to him what true leadership is all about: helping people you supervise grow in their professional development.
, organizational psychologist, is the president of management-consulting company Lumpkin & Associates in Fairhope, AL. Need answers? Email your career-related questions to firstname.lastname@example.org