The goal: Make the interim person an ally instead of an adversary.

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Q: I will soon be taking a job that has been filled for several months by an interim director. “Jack” had hoped to be given the position permanently but now he will be reporting to me. This is a rather awkward situation, so how should I approach my discussion with Jack?

A: You are wise to give this some thought before showing up at the office. Even if Jack is a consummate professional, watching you take over his desired job will undoubtedly be difficult. Because the interim appointment indicates that he is both respected and capable, start by acknowledging his contributions and inviting his suggestions.

For example: “Jack, I want you to know how much I appreciate the work you did as interim director, and I’m sure that experience will be helpful in your career. Because I know you have a lot of valuable knowledge, I’d like to spend some time talking about the history of the department and getting your thoughts about the future.”

The goal of this discussion is to shift the relationship from competitive to collaborative and to make Jack an ally instead of an adversary. If he responds in kind, then you will be off to a good start.

Submit questions to Marie G. McIntyre at