I’m reluctant to accept a promotion in a managerial role as I have concerns about supervising someone who I feel is not a good employee.

Elaine Varelas provides guidance on how to approach a new managerial role when you have concerns about supervising a particular employee.

Q. I’m about to be promoted at work, but in my new role there is a colleague I would be supervising who is not the greatest employee and not up to my standards.  She is just not a good performer or communicator. I’m having second thoughts about accepting the promotion unless I can fire this person immediately. Any advice?

A. Congratulations on your promotion. As you know, there are many reasons people are promoted. Often it starts with the leaders functional expertise, and as people get more senior in the organization, it has more to do with leadership capabilities. Your colleague may not have demonstrated a skillset that you appreciated as a colleague, but it's time to start over. You are now going into a new management role where everybody gets a clean slate with you as their supervisor. You may not have had insight into how this person dealt with their supervisor, but you need to give that person the opportunity to demonstrate an acceptable skill set for you as her new manager.

Not accepting the role unless you can fire someone sets you up as a negative negotiator, as a person who doesn't demonstrate a win-win, so that as you win, this person loses. You may certainly ask about where all the individuals on your team stand in terms of past performance. You can ask to see past employee performance reviews in order to gain better insight into who these people are. But you need to understand, as a supervisor, who you are. If this person does need to be separated from the organization, you need to understand how and under what circumstances that happens in your organization, what the human resources documentation process is, and whether this person is currently on a performance improvement plan.

You are presuming too much, which is that as a colleague, this person was not up to your standards. As a direct report, that person may change entirely to be someone who delivers the professional expertise that you need to be successful as a leader of your group. There are numerous examples of coaches of sports teams where a player may have had a bad track record historically, but perhaps they thrive under another coach’s capability. Another example is a student who does not respond well to a certain instructor who becomes a star pupil under a different teaching style. As a new manager, can you coach this person to perform? They may have skills no one else on your team has that might be extremely valuable to your success and that of the organization.

If you have a difficult track record working with this employee, it’s important to have a conversation with her when you move into your leadership role. Let her know that you are giving her this opportunity and that everything is starting anew. If you aren’t happy with this employee’s performance and complain about them a lot, think about what you can do to make this better. Communicate with her as to what your expectations are and what her accountability is. Demonstrate the kind of communication skills that you want to see and give her very clear guidelines about what a good performer is.  This is also the time to ask questions. Get her perspective on why things didn’t work as well as you both had hoped. There may be more to the story than you see. It’s a great lesson early on to get a closer view before you take action.