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I’m tired of being compared to my legendary predecessor

Today I’m answering a tough question about how to handle stepping into a new position when everyone adored the person who had the position before you got the job.

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The job I landed five weeks ago is turning into a disaster. Every time I meet a new customer, they ask, “Where’s Haley?” She had my job before me and everyone loved her. I can tell they’re disappointed that I’ve taken over her accounts.

Last week, I went to my boss and told him what’s going on. At first, he said he didn’t see what the problem was and then he told me to “get over it” and “make every customer feel I was as good as Haley or better.” That’s hard to do when everyone keeps telling me she walked on water. It’s like I can’t win.

What do I do?

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Stop psyching yourself out. Each time you hear positive comments about Haley, you take them as slams against you. They’re not. Your customers’ positive statements tell you that you have customers who want great service, recognize value when they see it and compliment a competent professional. In other words, you lucked out — you have customers who aren’t impossible to please.

You’ve been handed a gift few new employees receive. You’re taking over from a winner. If Haley hadn’t done her job well, you’d have to spend hours fixing the problems she left behind. Instead, you start out ahead of the game, able to move forward with every customer account.

Leverage this gift you’ve been handed. Ask each customer who voices appreciation for Haley, “What did she do that you truly valued?” When your customers give you specifics, take note of what you need to do, and tell your customers that you intend to follow in Haley’s footsteps to meet and exceed their expectations. Then do so, and here’s what you’ll hear in six months: “Wow, she’s the greatest.” And they’ll be talking about you.

Finally, you’re not the only one who falls into this “if they like her so much, they won’t like me” trap. A lot of us measure ourselves against others. By doing so, we defeat ourselves and strip our potential. So follow the example Haley has set for you and push yourself to go “one better.”

Have a question for Lynne? Email her at with subject “SheKnows” and she may answer your question (confidentially) in an upcoming piece on SheKnows.

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© 2016, Lynne Curry. Lynne is an executive coach and author of Solutions and Beating the Workplace Bully, AMACOM. You can follow Lynne through her other posts on, via,™ or @lynnecurry10 on Twitter.

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