November 17, 2013

Surviving the Adjustment Period of a New Manager

Three penguins stranded on iceManaging is a tough job, especially for those leading a team for the first time. New managers infrequently receive any guidance at first and often cannot turn to their underlings since he or she is the one supposedly in charge and who has all of the answers. And while having a clueless manager is frustrating for the staff, it is equally difficult to the adjusting manager. In order to best understand the predicament your new manager finds him or herself in, take a step back and put yourself in your manager’s shoes and maybe discover some ways to adjust to your new boss.

Think about your first steady, professional job. It is an exciting time but also nerve wracking while trying to adjust to a new environment with a new culture and established norms. Well, becoming a manager is a lot like that first professional experience. Entering the job, you know you are qualified and capable of performing the job, but you are also in the spotlight to prove your value to others. As a manager, you are expected to already be an expert at everything, even though that person may be experiencing scenarios never before encountered. Like any other role, managing people must be learned and learning takes time. Just because your new boss has the first-day jitters doesn’t mean that he or she is not capable or competent.

Most new employees can take some solace in the fact that they are expected to make some mistakes as they learn the ropes. But as a manager, that inherent learning curb no longer applies. Any mistakes made can have dire consequences and not only is the manager responsible for personal mistakes, but also those of the entire team. Needless to say, the stakes are very high leading to equally high anxiety. Understanding the pressures being exerted on your manager to get everything right may help you understand why he or she is so focused on perfection and sympathize with the plight.

Asking questions is a part of any employee’s professional development, but, as a manager, you have to be very selective in the questions you ask. Since you are supposed to know everything about everything, appearing ignorant can lead to a loss in confidence from your team. But, when first starting out, no one can know all of the details understood by others who have been in place for years. And the difference between asking a question as a peon and as a manager is that managers have a very limited pool of people to whom he or she can turn for answers. Most managers avoid asking for help from underlings in order to avoid that potential loss in confidence, so helping your boss out by offering lessons on the daily functioning of the office can benefit both parties.

When you have a better understanding of where your new manager is coming from, you can help create an environment where it is easier for him or her to find help when needed while also building a good foundation for a quality professional relationship.


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Joshua Bjerke, from Savannah, Georgia, focuses on articles involving the labor force, economy, and HR topics including new technology and workplace news. Joshua has a B.A. in Political Science with a Minor in International Studies and is currently pursuing his M.A. in International Security.