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7 Pitfalls of First-Time Managers

February 1, 2015

By: Crystal Spraggins

You’ve been promoted, and it feels great! You’ve got more autonomy, more authority, and more money. Congratulations. But wait. Many employees think the manager is a boob.

In a 2010 survey, one-third of employees rated their manager as completely or somewhat incompetent, while only half said their manager was competent or very competent.

More recent surveys have yielded similar results. In the 2014 TINYpulse Employee Engagement and Organizational Culture Report, 49% of employees said they weren’t satisfied with their direct supervisor.

You don’t want to be one of those managers. Right? Fantastic!

The 7 most common pitfalls of first-time management and how to avoid them:

1. You’re still thinking like an independent contributor.

Getting work done through others requires a shift in thinking. You’re responsible for more than just yourself now. How can you delegate effectively? Who on your team would benefit from what kind of development? What motivates your employees, and how can you provide/facilitate that motivation? What does your staff want and need from you to meet their professional and personal goals? It’s time to find out.

2. You want to be liked.

While you shouldn’t go out of your way to be disliked, don’t be surprised or discouraged if your change in rank arouses some negative feelings in others. Some will be jealous. Some will resent your new authority. Others won’t like your decisions. It goes with the territory. Do the best job possible. Be prepared. Align yourself with your boss and other influencers who do like you. Ignore the haters.

3. You believe you should know everything.

Not at all. Everyone can benefit from the right kind of learning. Take a class. Sign up for a webinar. Listen to anyone with a good idea. Read. Repeat often.

4. You want to be one of the guys.

Being a member of management means you’ll have to align yourself with other leaders in the organization, which on occasion, will require you to promote and/or enforce unpopular policies or those you dislike. If you don’t, you risk generating distrust from those above and beneath you. (Note: If you find yourself often doubting the wisdom of senior leadership, you might be in the wrong company, but that’s a talk for another day.)

5. You’re too focused on “us” versus “them.”

Yes, you’re in management, and as author Bruce Tulgan wrote, it’s Okay to Be the Boss. Still, there’s a difference between being conscientious and being a clunk head. No matter how far you’ve come, don’t forget what it’s like to be dependent on a manager for raises, promotions, validation, and praise.

Express thanks to your team sincerely and often. Keep your word. Pay attention. Be nice.

6. You’re too hard on yourself.

Mistakes happen, and in a healthy culture, it’s expected and okay. Even if your culture isn’t the healthiest and your boob of a boss lambasts you for an error, you don’t have to internalize his or her criticism. Apologize. Pinpoint where you went wrong. Learn. Move on.

7. You’re too insecure.

Your lack of confidence leads you to envy (of anyone who shines brighter than you), fear (of having your position snatched from you), and analysis paralysis. Stop it! You were promoted for a reason. Let that be good enough for now. Keep learning, growing, and connecting, and soon you’ll realize you know a heck of a lot more than you gave yourself credit for knowing.

Management is tough.

Effective management is even tougher because, let’s face it—any tyrant with a title can throw his (or her) weight around—big deal.

You want to be better than that. Dive into your new job aware of the pitfalls of managing others but determined to avoid as many as you can while accepting that you’ll inevitably step into a few. It’s alright. We’ve all been there!

Crystal Spraggins

Freelance Writer, Editor, and HR Consultant in Philly. You can find more of Crystal's work at:

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