What's your problem?

I'M SADDLED WITH A DISGRUNTLED ASSISTANT. When I was promoted I inherited an assistant. We had previously worked together in a larger team, and she made it clear she 'didn't like my face'. I assumed her dislike was irrational, unrelated to my personality or work ethics. I kept the relationship professional and distant. She has since done her utmost to cause problems.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Although thorough with her job, her attitude is appalling. She doesn't greet you or reply, she slams doors and so on. I've discussed this with her and she improved - for a couple of days. I finally spoke to my boss and the personnel department, who did nothing. A year later personnel told me they could offer my assistant some counselling as her problems were obviously emotional. The situation again improved briefly but has since deteriorated. I've had this problem for nearly three years. I've tried discussions, flowers, threats and praise when it was deserved - nothing works for long. I am at the end of my tether - the atmosphere is dreadful. What else can I do?

Three years is long enough. The detail you go into convinces me that you've done far more than your fair share to make this relationship work. The sooner it now ends the better.

Your boss and your personnel department are clearly reluctant to accept this truth - perhaps because they're intimidated by the prospect of further tantrums. But it's now time to be firm with both of them. If they don't accept your view that she should, with due care and attention, be asked to leave the company, they must find her another role. Make it clear that your work is suffering, your productivity is down and that you plan to tell her within a specified time that she'll no longer be working with you.

Be reasoned, be resolute and put it in writing. Yes, it's a trial of strength, but I don't see it's one you can any longer postpone.

Please address your problems to Jeremy Bullmore at: Management Today, 174 Hammersmith Road, London W6 7JP. Or e-mail: management.today@haynet.com Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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