A co-worker and I were competing for the same job. I got it. He now works for me and he is not too happy about it. How do I deal with this?
You must have a conversation with this guy right away before things start to fester. If you avoid this step, he might get a power play with you: Gossiping, turning the team against you, and generally sewing seeds of discontent might be on his mind. These are the last things you need as you navigate your new role.
There are four components this talk needs to cover.
In an effort to open up the lines of communication, you will need to address the elephant in the room. Letting him know that you feel the tension between you (make sure you have some concrete examples of how that manifests) and that you are committed to clearing it up will go a long way to establishing credibility and trust.
You will also need to give him time and space to vent. Since you are now the boss and in a position of authority, your staff member is suddenly one down. Because of that, it is your responsibility to make this a safe space that will allow him to get some issues off his chest in order to return to being a productive team player. As part of that, you will need to get over whatever feelings you might have (welcome to management), including smugness, self-importance, anxiety or annoyance. You will need to put yourself into a supportive mind frame and be able to consider his perspective.
Next, try to find out his reasons for pursuing your position. If it was for the prestige and higher income there might not be much you can do. But if he hoped to learn new skills, be challenged, and increase his autonomy or responsibility, you both might benefit from finding him opportunities to use his strengths.
Finally, this conversation and follow-up discussions are a chance for you to redefine the relationship and re-establish trust. One way to do that is to show him respect and that you value what he brings to the team. By not being selected for the position, he may be feeling unappreciated. Be sure to really acknowledge him and provide positive feedback both in this meeting and on the job.
While this conversation is a good first step, you will need to continue to have regular check-ins with him and other team members to keep everything on track.
Globe and Mail; May 30, 2007