Fatima, a 23-year-old marketing associate, appeared confused and depressed when we met for coffee the other day.
"The weirdest thing is happening to me at work," she said. "I told you how my manager loved my work when I started over a year ago, and how the team was great. I helped launch new initiatives at work, and my end-of-year appraisal result was great. I even got a promotion within a year. Then a month ago, everything went bitter."
"What do you mean?" It did not make sense to me, and I wanted to know what happened.
"My line manager started to pick on the smallest details, and he is always too busy to see me," she said. "At my annual appraisal, he said he would be sending me on more training courses abroad. But when I asked him about that recently he said that we need to rethink this one.
"I feel like I have gone from being his favourite employee to his sworn enemy. His treatment changed."
"Something must have happened between your appraisal results and a month ago," I insisted. "Nothing really," she said. "I've been working on projects with our chief executive instead of my line manager, as per his request."
"Bingo," I replied. "Did your line manager ask you to do that, or did the chief executive decide that on his own?"
"Our chief heard that I was the mastermind behind several projects, and knew how enthusiastic I am about my work. I've tagged along on my line manager's meetings with him, and I have voiced my opinion when asked. I guess it's great in a way as the other managers said that rarely do junior staff members work along with the chief executive."
"There you have it," I exclaimed. "You've been in your first job less than two years, and I know you've worked on so many projects that would take others years to accomplish. No wonder your boss is treating you that way. He is afraid you will steal his thunder."
"No way," responded my friend. "My manager is way more experienced and qualified than I am."
The thing is, my friend hashelped to launch five projects in a year, including a new online newsletter, redesigned the corporate website, and brought in high-net-worth clients, when her line manager did not even accomplish half of that.
He might be experienced, but my friend was full of ideas. She was ahead of him in so many things, and that posed a threat.
I have heard similar stories from others who constantly complain about mistreatment from their seniors, especially when they are enthusiastic about their jobs and come up with ideas that would impress higher management.
When I tell them that their manager could be feeling threatened, and that is normal, they say they do not want their manager's job yet, and that what they are doing is more fun.
But their managers do not necessarily know what my friends want. And even if my friends mentioned to their managers that they do not want their jobs, there is no guarantee the managers will believe them
When people are afraid they think emotionally and not rationally.
Managers might even think that after doing all those great things, their star employee would leave for a better job and they would look bad for losing them and for not being able to pick up their workload.
The best solution for employees who face such situations is to not to slow down because their managers are threatened.
On the contrary they should keep trying to improve, letting people across the company know their potential, and reassure their boss they are not a threat, starting the conversation with something along the lines of: "Sometimes I have a feeling that my style at work might make you feel uneasy."
As for managers and leaders, when you are gifted with awesome team members, encourage them to achieve big goals, and be there to assist them when they need it.
When you help them do so, you automatically become a part of their success. After all, this is what leadership is all about.
Manar Al Hinai is an award winning Emirati writer and fashion designer based in Abu Dhabi