The scenario

A senior-ish IC (Alice) is given a new manager (Bob). Alice is secure in her IC abilities and feels entitled to her place on the team. She doesn’t like Bob as her new manager and concludes that she will not benefit by following his lead. Confident that she will endure no negative consequences, Alice starts alpha-dogging Bob. She openly disregards Bob’s authority – unapologetically skipping meetings and missing deadlines. She voices frustration to those around her, spreading feelings of doubt in Bob’s ability to be an effective manager. Alice brings down team morale, distracts the team from operating in harmony and drains Bob’s emotional energy that should be spent on his better-intentioned reports.

To Alice:

Learn from my mistakes and trust me that there are better ways of achieving what you’re actually trying to achieve.* I’ve alpha-dogged as a strategy to finagle a raise and a promotion, in two separate cases. In retrospect, it was short-sighted and not socially calibrated. The EM role is explicitly one of authority for efficiency and clarity’s sake. The EM has already earned the trust of someone in a higher position of power. All I managed to achieve is mistakenly highlight my own immaturity and a clear lack of ability to build trust – two crucial characteristics of being worthy of advancement in my career.

To Bob:

This happens all the time. It’s not a reflection of your management ability, unless you let it be. It can help to talk to peer managers about the problem at hand because they have likely dealt with something similar.

Skip the uncomfortable process of hoping that Alice’s behavior is only temporary. It must be stopped before it wears away at your ability to be an effective manager. Decide exactly what it looks like for you and Alice to build trust and communicate it directly to her. Addressing the problem head-on is on the EM and an essential first step in fixing the relationship. If that doesn’t work, work with Alice and/or your manager to discontinue her place on the team. Everyone will be better off for it.

*In the case that your EM is actually bad, there are better strategies to employ.