This week’s question comes from a federal manager who was promoted to a management position after the previous manager was terminated. She shared, “Although I didn't know in advance of the termination, I was accused in a managers meeting of getting him fired. Some staff are supportive. Others are distrustful.  I understand that respect and trust are privileges not rights and take time, but what are your thoughts on how to address the issue when confronted with accusations?”

I commend you for wanting to take control of the situation and searching for strategies to help gain your colleagues’ respect and trust. Sometimes your best defense when confronted with accusations is a good offense. It’s like the old cliché – kill them with kindness.

First, I suggest having a conversation with your direct supervisor to lay out a plan for earning your colleagues respect and trust.

As part of your plan, reach out to those who have not only been most supportive but who also have good relationships with others on the team. Be candid about your situation and interest in making things better. Ask them for any tips and insights from their interactions with team members.

Next, pick a few colleagues who you want to begin cultivating relationships with. In your first conversation, I suggest putting the distrust on the table, and then finding a shared goal that will require you to work together effectively. For example, you might start the conversation by saying:

“I realize that I didn’t come into this position under the best of circumstances, but I want you to know that I had nothing to do with the situation other than being promoted into this role. I want to make sure we get off on the right foot, and I am hopeful that this meeting can be a starting point for building a solid working relationship moving forward.”

By addressing the conflict directly, you should be able to build the respect and trust that you’re after. At the same time, you will be showing your team that you’re a leader, self-aware and unafraid of dealing with conflict.

And by talking with your supervisor and other colleagues, you’re building a support structure of teammates who provide honest feedback about what’s working and what’s not.

Good luck!

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