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Former brownnoser seeks to be trusted

Dear Office-Politics,

I work for a boutique consulting firm with around 15 employees. I have always worked for large fortune 500 companies so this is a bit of a change for me. When I first joined (3 months back) I was a bit insecure and I sort of brown nosed one of the senior guys (he is currently partner).

He liked me while I was interviewing because I was my usual straight forward self then and now he thinks I am not trustworthy. Everyone else in the company seems fine with me. The problem is he really hates me and does not want to work with me and he is the CEOs right hand man. He even hired another young guy recently that he is mentoring. What should I do to control the damage while I work here?

Former Brown-noser

jennifer glueck bezoza

Dear Former Brown-noser,

It’s very natural to feel insecure and not quite yourself when starting a new job. You want to make a good impression and build relationships with colleagues and leaders in the organization, and you haven’t yet demonstrated your value for the organization, which can feel intimidating and stressful.

It’s hard to discern from your letter the exact nature of your “brown nosing” of the CEO’s right hand man. Were you overly flattery to this individual? Did you put someone else down with the intention of complimenting him? You want to examine what it is you said or did that left this partner with the impression that you are not trustworthy. You also want to examine whether this way of behaving is something you have done in previous situations when you have felt insecure, and how effective (or not effective) it is for you.

The bright side of the situation is that it sounds like you are building relationships and working well with others in the organization. Also, this individual who you say “hates you” today had a good impression when you brought your true, “straightforward” self to the interview. I don’t think it’s too late to change it around with him.

Given that this partner is the CEO’s right hand man, and that this is a small organization of 15 people, you need to proactively work to rebuild trust with this person. My first recommendation is that you have a one-on-one conversation with this senior partner. You may opt to schedule a Thursday or Friday afternoon, as I find the morale at the end of the week is a little lighter, and individuals tend to be more forgiving when they’re looking forward to the weekend. Choose a time you think that he won’t feel stressed, rushed or distracted in the conversation.

During this meeting, you want to start by iterating—in an authentic way—your commitment to the organization and your desire to have good working relationships with everyone on the team. You then want to acknowledge how you have sensed that your words and/or actions led him to lose faith in you. You then want to inquire in an open-ended manner whether there is something you said or did that led him to lose faith. While you claim he hates you, there is a possibility that you have misinterpreted his perception of you. The most important aspect of this interaction is that you listen and acknowledge his experience without getting defensive or angry. You also want to express your growth since joining the firm and your desire to be counted on for straightforward interactions going forward. While he may not be willing or ready to move on from it at the end of the conversation, it will be a relief for both of you to clear the air.

In addition to your efforts with this partner, you want to continue to build trust with the other members of the team, including the individual who this partner has hired and chosen to mentor. In fact, maybe there is something to learn from him as well. Here are some quick thoughts and ideas to build trust in the new organization.

1. Take time to get to know what’s important to your colleagues on a professional and a personal level
2. Ask and learn the “norms” for operating in this new culture
3. Acknowledge others for their good ideas
4. Give credit to those who contributed to your work product
5. Help out on colleagues’ projects or issues, even when your job description does not require it
6. Approach colleagues directly when you have an issue or a concern (never talk behind others back)
7. Focus on doing the right things for the business to grow (as opposed to what will look good)

I hope some of these ideas are helpful to you, and I hope that you and this partner can start rebuilding the relationship. Thank you for writing Office Politics.

Best wishes,

Jennifer Glueck Bezoza, MA

Jennifer Glueck Bezoza has an MA in organizational psychology from Columbia University and a BA in psychology and humanities from Stanford University. She currently works in Organizational Development for the largest not-for-profit home health organization in the country where she focuses on succession planning, leadership development and coaching. Previously, she worked for GE Commercial Finance and HR consultant, Towers Perrin.

  1. One Answer to “Former brownnoser seeks to be trusted”

  2. Firstly I really appreciate you taking the time to think about and provide a solution to my problem. I agree with you, I think it might be time for a talk with this guy. Naturally this is not something I am looking forward to and I was hoping it could be something I could do after I had proved myself at work.

    Unfortunately the company has been going through bad times and layoffs might start soon. Either way if I get the time I will definitely try out your advice and let you know how it worked. Meanwhile I will help the guy he is mentoring. Thanks again for taking the time. Really appreciate it.

    As for using flattery. I have used it once or twice before. It did work in those situations. I find I usually use it either in situations where I feel thats what the person is looking for or I use it when I am insecure like now.

    By Letter Writer on Feb 27, 2007

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