Q: I have been working for the same company and under the same manager for almost a decade. I have also been going to school part-time to earn a professional certification. My manager’s boss recently promoted me because of my experience and my education. I am still under my current manager, and that will not change.
Ever since my promotion was first brought up, my manager has been cold and distant toward me. She barely says two words to me all day even though we work across from each other. Her attitude toward my co-workers has not changed, and she still chitchats with them. When she announced my promotion to my co-workers, she kept saying everyone deserved a promotion and didn’t mention any of my hard work.
She has always been moody and territorial. I am not sure how to proceed except to be upfront with her, but I doubt speaking to her will do any good.
A: I’ll take you at your word that there’s been a distinct, consistent chill in the air that coincides with the decision to promote you. I’m also going to assume “barely says two words to me” means your manager communicates with you just enough to get work done, sans pleasantries. If she’s deliberately sabotaging you or refusing to convey or respond to critical messages, that has a straightforward solution: Call out rude or obstructive behaviour, ask the reason behind it and then ask that it stop. Elevate if needed.
But low-key frostiness from someone who’s “always been moody and territorial” is trickier to call out and easier for her to deny. You can try testing the ice without accusing or diagnosing: “I’ve noticed a tension between us lately. Is something the matter?”
It would take a special strength of character for her to say, “You’re right, I am behaving badly. It’s me, not you” – and then make a genuine effort to sweeten up. You may just have to be satisfied with knowing that she knows you’ve noticed, adapt to the cooler climate and count yourself lucky that she’s bad at disguising her feelings.
Sometimes it helps to invent a private narrative, based on what you know about her and your employer, that casts your antagonist in a more human light without excusing her coldness. For example:
–She’s feeling threatened in a competitive environment where senior managers are frequently “upgraded” with cheaper models.
–She feels protective toward your colleagues because opportunities and praise at your company are tightly rationed, and she wants to reassure them that their work is also valued.
–She’s frustrated and feeling stalled in her career.
–She senses, accurately or not, a change in you. Does it chafe that even with extra schooling and a promotion, you’re still under the same manager? Are you hoping for more?
At any rate, if this distance can’t be bridged with polite professionalism, maybe it’s time to look for an opportunity where accomplishments don’t have a chilling effect on camaraderie.