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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

Adjusting to a New Manager? Try Putting Yourself in Her Shoes

There’s an old saying that goes, “Great managers are made, not born.” OK, maybe the original refers to “great leaders,” but it applies to managers, too.

After thriving under numerous managers, surviving under others, and eventually leading a team myself, I’ve come to accept the fact that managing is a tough gig. Few managers are given much in the way of guidance when first starting out, and their new employees aren’t likely to help much either—after all, they aren’t the boss, right?

So recently, when a friend mentioned she had a new manager that was driving everyone crazy with her cluelessness as to how to handle the team, I had to pipe up. I’ve been in that position before, and while it probably wasn’t a walk in the park for my staff, trust me, it wasn’t easy on me either.

I suggested my friend try to consider her manager’s perspective to help ease the transition, and shared with her some considerations she could make to help manage her new manager.

First Job Jitters

Remember your first real job? The one with a steady paycheck, no timecards, and even a few benefits? If you were at all like me, you were thrilled with the opportunity, yet simultaneously nauseous with the realization that failure and disappointment were part of the deal as well. A heady mix of emotions to be sure, and we’ve all been there—managers included.

My first stint as a manager was much like my first day of work. I knew I was qualified to get the job, and I knew I could do the job, but I’d still have to prove my mettle to everyone else. But here’s the rub: When you’re the manager, everyone expects you to be a pro. After all, isn't that why you got the job?

Well, just like that first job, a new manager—or even an experienced manager with a new team—will have the jitters when first starting out. Regardless of how experienced and qualified your new manager may be, she’s still human, and starting out as the leader of the pack can be terrifying and humbling.

Remember this if you’ve got a new manager that doesn’t seem all that comfortable in her new skin. Like any role you’ve ever taken on, managing is something everyone has to learn how to do. So those first job jitters? Your manager probably has them in spades. And you know what? That doesn’t mean she’s not going to do an amazing job leading your team.

The Stakes Are High

When you make that first big mistake on the job, it may seem like the world is ending—but you can take some comfort in knowing there’s a learning curve, and that you’re actually expected to make some mistakes when you're starting out.

Well, when you’re a new manager, you’re expected to be far beyond that learning curve, and mistakes could have real consequences to your career. What’s more, your team’s mistakes will now be your responsibility, too. As a result, new managers are naturally a bit anxious about getting it right.

Remember what it was like when you were first given a big responsibility? That’s what it’s like for managers—the stakes are high. You're expected to perform, and this time, mistakes aren’t going to be tolerated quite the same way they were when you were the new kid.

Yes, it’s annoying to work with someone who’s uber-focused on getting it right, but if you can understand what your new manager has on the line, it might make it a bit easier to deal with her frantic fact-checking and habitual hovering.

No Questions Asked

Asking questions is a part of job—but when you’re the manager, you have to think carefully about what you ask. As a manager, you’re expected to know everything about, well, everything, so you can confidently lead the team forward.

But, when a manager first starts out, she probably doesn’t know nearly as much as her team, especially if she was hired externally. A process you perform flawlessly every day may be new to your new boss. And here’s the big difference between you and her: She probably doesn’t have a whole lot of people she can ask when she does have questions.

Yes, a good manager will come right out and ask you to teach her what you do, but, let’s face it, that’s hard for most of us to do—as a manager or not. So, cut her some slack and help her out by taking the first step and offering to walk her through what you do every day—you'll both be glad you did.

Growing pains with a new manager are to be expected. But if you can understand where she’s coming from, you’ll create the opportunity for you to teach her a thing or two, help her get up to speed more quickly, and lay the foundation for a good professional relationship.

Read more from The Daily Muse's Career Advancement Month.

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