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If you have a question for our Career Coach, e-mail Helen at careers@ReConnectAfrica.com

{mosimage}Dear Helen

I would like your advice on my situation. I left Uganda to study for a Masters degree in Canada and then worked for two years with a leading financial firm. I have recently returned to work in Kampala at my old company but my former colleague who I worked with very closely in the past now has to report to me. While he has not been actively hostile about my position, I am finding the situation rather awkward, as there are aspects of his performance that need improving. I don’t want to seem too heavy-handed but I also do not want to look like a poor manager. Do you have any advice?

William K., Kampala

Hi William

As the saying goes, ‘it is lonely at the top’ and the higher you climb, the more hard decisions you may need to take.  Clearly, you have increased both your academic and work experience while you were in Canada and you should build on this to move on in your career.

Whether or not you had travelled, you may well have been promoted above your former colleague.  If he hasn’t shown any hostility or resentment towards you, it suggests that the problem may lie more with you than with him.

As you also sound fairly new to managing others, you should consider some training or coaching to increase your confidence in supervising and managing people effectively.

Clear communication is essential to avoid any misunderstandings with your former colleague or any other subordinates, so agree together and write down any objectives or targets you set your former colleague and make time to review his progress on a regular basis. Make sure that you have been clear in establishing how you will gauge his achievements and that he has the necessary information and resources to meet the objectives set.  You should also consider any training or other support that he may need to help him succeed.

You are right not to want to appear heavy-handed – this style of management will not succeed in motivating your subordinates to achieve their best – but if he continues to perform below your expectations and the requirements of his job, you should not shy away from taking matters further, in line with your company’s disciplinary procedures.

Good luck and remember that you can contact us for more detailed advice and management coaching, if you need to.

All the best!


Voted Candace Business Woman of the Year 1997, Helen Dupigny is a Director and co-founder of Working Plus, (www.working-plus.com) a Careers Management and Diversity consultancy and creator of the award-winning ‘Six Steps Career and Personal Development Programme’. A Sierra Leonean based in London, Helen is also the author of ‘Vicissitude’, a guide to making life and career changes.

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