(Written by Jon Buchler, FEI EAP Counselor)

Sharon has been working 12 years for XYZ Distributors, which sells office equipment and supplies to companies throughout the United States. For the past seven years, she has managed an inside sales group of ten employees.

One year ago, her supervisor, the Director of Inside Sales at the time, was promoted and the company brought in a new director (Bill) from a competitor to fill the position. Sharon did not experience significant difficulties during the transition and believes the new director sets fair expectations, manages by objectives and supports her in her work, even as he holds her and her workgroup accountable to achieve goals.

Five months ago, there was a vacancy in Sharon’s department and Bill strongly recommended a seasoned salesperson (Candice) to fill the position. Candice had worked successfully in a similar position at the company which Bill had left to join XYZ Distributors. She weathered the interviewing process “with flying colors,” and references glowed about her skill and success. Sharon hired her despite some concern that Bill was overly zealous in promoting Candice’s candidacy for the job. The fact that Bill stated to Sharon that she would have a free hand in supervising Candice helped her to make the decision to bring Candice on board.

Candice is currently living up to her reputation as a crackerjack salesperson. She learned XYZ’s way of doing things quickly and within three months of her arrival was exceeding sales goals by 15 percent or more. She seems to be very good at working with purchasing agents at client companies and is very adept at identifying their needs, finding the best products to meet those needs and forging agreements around pricing, delivery dates, etc.

Sharon has noticed Candice doesn’t seem to apply her “people skills” to colleagues. She seems brusque and “all business,” and has made no effort to build good working relationships with coworkers. She is often condescending in her manner of communication, maintaining an air of superiority.

At first the members of the workgroup chose to ignore Candice’s “bad attitude,” but as time went by they became increasingly irritated. Several of the more senior members of the team reached out to Candice about their desire to have a more pleasant relationship. They chose a warm and welcoming approach, but came away from the conversation with the impression that Candice was indifferent to their concerns.

The members of the sales team consider Candice to be rude and unprofessional in her relationships and have asked for Sharon’s help. They note the outcome of their effort to engage Candice in trying to build a better relationship. Sharon advises her supervisees that she would like to consider her response, but realizes there is a problem that needs attention.

Sharon has seen Bill and Candice having lunch together in a nearby restaurant on a number of occasions. While she’s observed nothing suggesting a romantic relationship, she has noticed they appear to be friends. She remembers Bill’s statement that she would have a free hand in Candice’s supervision, but is hesitant to take the course of action she might normally choose with a problem of this nature. She is not certain she can trust Bill to give her the support she needs in order to remedy the problem—and yet she knows she cannot ignore the problem, either.

If you were Sharon, what might you do?