Filling senior level positions is no easy feat. Ideally, candidates excel in key leadership areas (such as influence, communication, and strategic thinking), understand how to balance a sense of authority with approachability, and align with company’s vision. After finally finding someone you’re confident will lead your team to success, a sense of relief may begin to kick in. Unfortunately, your team may not always agree.
Leadership changes can lead to friction within your team, leaving people confused as to why and upset that they’ve been passed up for the opportunity.
When asked how to diffuse tension after bringing in an external hire to lead, here’s what our community had to say:
Reflect on and learn from your approach
While you shouldn’t doubt your decision, which would cause your team to further question it, it may be helpful to reflect on how you approached and communicated it.
As Wendy Williamson shares, it’s necessary to keep your team in the loop when it comes to critical decisions, especially those that directly affect them. “It appears you may not have had a discussion with current employees before making the hiring decision which would have alleviated some, if not all, of the current employees’ ‘feelings.’ ” Not asking for your team’s input on key matters can lead to them feeling unheard, betrayed, and undervalued.
Connie Wedel shares this should be seen as a learning opportunity, “The fact that there is underlying resentment, no one seems to be communicating well in either direction, which indicates that communication, transparency (and possibly trust) is an area of opportunity for all.”
“Usually when there is resentment around this type of decision it stems from lack of understanding about either what it takes to get promoted or where individuals stand with regards to their own career progression,” adds LeeAnne Berlinsky. Ultimately, people are interested in knowing their contributions are valued, and that they’re in a position to advance their careers. Communicating openly so your team understands why they’ve been passed up for a promotion, and what they can do to advance in the future, is key.
Open the door for open and honest communication
Although there may have been a lack of clear communication during the decision making process, it isn’t too late to invite open and honest discussion about your call. Now’s your chance to clear the air with your team. Carol Teasley shares “I would endorse that you hold a meeting of your senior staff and field their questions and concerns.”
You can, and should, also use this as an opportunity to recognize your team members. “Find a way to communicate that you appreciate their work, talents, and the contributions they are making to the company’s success, as well as how much you values having them on the team,” recommends Himanshi Patel.
Shaun Donnelly suggests having these conversations with individuals, rather than speaking with the whole team at once. “You should really only address this in a group meeting if you feel it requires that level of attention. It is probably best handled in 1:1 sessions so you can gain consensus on the hire without creating a greater issue than actually exists and allow him to address each person’s concerns individually.”
Share your reasoning
Communication, once again, goes a long way in developing – and, perhaps in this case, rebuilding – trust.
“I would emphasize what problems you are solving, what the new hire brings to the table, and what new opportunities this creates. Although you want to show confidence in your decision and in your new hire, you also want to be transparent in your thinking and acknowledge any shortcomings in how you made the determination that going outside was the right thing to do and how you communicated that,” advises Bill Bonney.
James Oni adds, “you should try to make reference to any historical records that might justify your actions. You should be open and share the vision of the organization with the team,” and communicate how your decision aligns with that vision.
Sharing why you chose the external candidate will not only get your team to better understand where you’re coming from, it’ll help them understand the qualities it takes to achieve a promotion, allowing them to work on developing those qualities.
Set expectations around growth opportunities
Ultimately, the discussions and emotions that arise from this situation revolve around your team members’ concerns regarding their own career progression. “Share how you plan to help them for future progression. What are your expectations? How can they reach that level of expectation? What are the gaps and how can these gaps be closed? How will you support their growth and development?” outlines Esther Chia.
Giving ways for people to progress will show that, although you hired outside the company, you are committed to the development and success of your existing team members.
Change the perspective on the situation
Shalabh Agrawal says, “You can use this opportunity to motivate and encourage your colleagues to strive harder to build your competencies to avoid such decisions in the future.”
“Empowering your current staff keeps the company as a unit growing,” explains Randy Holt.
After discussing and reflecting on what could have been done differently, you’re in a position to build a stronger bond with your team. “Hopefully trust will be built in the organizational meeting. Without trust, the problem will only get worse,” shares Robert Cox.
Make the new hire feel welcome
Set your new team member up for a successful and pleasant start by discussing how you will welcome them with your team. As Berlinsky says, “You need to set expectations for people regarding teamwork and onboarding of the new employee. You don’t want the new person to feel this tension and as the group leader you must be clear regarding what is acceptable and expected versus what won’t be tolerated.”
Trust the new hire
While you may plenty of weight on your own shoulders, remember that you made your decision to hire the person that’s most qualified for the position, and the person that you believe will thrive. The last thing you can do is trust that you’ve made the right decision and step back and let your new hire lead.
Donald Dagen suggests that you “have the new hire win your team over. I think that effort can’t come from you, it has to be an outreach from the new hire. However, you should use every chance to back up the new hire and make it clear of the commitment he has.”
- Reflect on how you could have improved the process
- Open conversations to share your reasoning and ask for your team’s feedback
- Discuss career development opportunities with your team members
- Welcome the new hire