Advice column: my colleague seems jealous over my promotion - how do I deal with her undermining actions?

Dear Ash,

I was recently promoted in our department, and although I worked really hard to achieve this, one of my colleagues seems determined to undermine me as she seemingly has sour grapes after missing out on a similar promotion. As part of my new role, I require to delegate some of the case files to other staff. However, every time I try to pass some work to this individual, she seems to question why someone else can’t help. When I insist on her taking the work, she later seems to ask me to cover something for her too! Also when I ask the secretaries to carry out some priority work for me, she seems to then advise them that her work needs to be given priority too. I have tried to ignore her but I feel I need to confront her about her behaviour; however, I don’t want to come across as arrogant due to my promotion.

Ash replies:

Marking out your territory in the office can be a very difficult and tricky process, especially when there any changes in the hierarchy. However, you need to assert your authority as otherwise you will risk losing respect in front of colleagues, who may also begin to undermine you in a similar way.

You may not be used to exerting authority over others and the best approach I would suggest is to be firm but fair in order to avoid feeling arrogant. I suggest you try to nip the issue in the bud by inviting your colleague to a meeting in order to clarify how you perceive things will change following your promotion. Explain your expectations of her, specifically with regard to her co-operating in meeting deadlines. It may also be worth highlighting that her co-operation or lack of it will inevitably be viewed by management higher up too. Hopefully, the initial meeting will have the desired effect of ensuring a better response from this individual in the future.

Nevertheless you should be prepared for the fact that not everyone will like your new status in the office, no matter how nice you are. However, as long as you are able to get the work done with a certain level of respect from staff then you will be doing well. As the saying goes, you cannot please all of the people all of the time and this is especially so when trying to manage others!


Send your queries to Ash

“Ash” is a solicitor who is willing to answer work-related queries from solicitors and trainees, which can be put to her via the editor: or mail to Studio 2001, Mile End, Paisley PA1 1JS. 

Confidence will be respected and any advice published will be anonymised.

Please note that letters to Ash are not received at the Law Society of Scotland. The Society offers a support service for trainees through its Registrar’s Department. For one-to-one advice, contact Katie Wood, Manager in the Registrar’s Department on 0131 476 8105/8200, or

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