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THE QUESTION

I was trying to move up at work and asked my boss whether I could supervise clerical staff. He approved, but the staff did not want to be supervised and went to human resources. HR then said I couldn't supervise other clerical staff because I am also classified as clerical, on the same level.

My boss was apparently unaware of this situation, but hasn't stuck up for me, implying that I kept information from him when I pushed for a position I am not classified to do.

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I try hard to do my job but have lost credibility. I see no prospect for moving up as management now views me as toxic when it comes to supervising others. Everyone in the office hates me, even though I have tried to explain to colleagues that I just wanted to get a promotion.

I love my job but hate the turn of events. I just want things to go back to the way they were before. How can I get rid of this cloud over my head and get my co-workers to see that I'm not try to backstab them?

THE FIRST ANSWER

Colleen Clarke

Corporate trainer and career specialist, Toronto

We are, unfortunately, judged by our actions, not our intentions. Without an official promotion, one doesn't usually just start supervising a peer group.

Clear up matters with your manager as soon as possible. Explain exactly what your intentions were in supervising others and how you approached your colleagues. Ask for his advice and support on mending your relationship with your peers. (Asking people for advice makes them feel important and part of the solution.) Also check with HR to see what they suggest.

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You have probably built bridges and trust with your colleagues over the years. Now is the time to ask for that "benefit of the doubt" to be shown.

Write a succinct letter to the team apologizing for whatever you did that has upset them. Then, speak to them one to one so you can read their body language and discuss their individual concerns. Work on winning the team over one by one.

In the meantime, look for leadership opportunities in and out of the office.

Take a course and read books on supervision. Practice self-leadership, become an example. Volunteer in your community or on an internal committee that requires a supervisory component. Prepare your résumé with these new leadership skills and start looking for advanced opportunities where you will be appreciated.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Zuleika Sgro

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Senior Manager, Talent Management Services, Questrade Inc., Toronto

It sounds as if your manager may have been trying to provide you with what you asked for without going through the appropriate communication channels. Communication to the team of any change in reporting structure is imperative to ensure success.

Being a people manager – a good one – also requires training on how to be a good leader versus being a star performer in your current job. A promotion does not always mean being a people manager and not everyone is suited to managing others.

To move forward, prove your value and trustworthiness by being an exceptional colleague to your peers. Support them by doing your job well, with genuine intentions, and promote a team atmosphere.

I would also encourage you to speak to your manager about your concerns and ask for support in re-establishing your trust with the team.

Got a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that mine field? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to ninetofive@globeandmail.com. Your confidentiality is ensured.

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