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Handling New Manager Challenges, Part 1: Interacting With Your Direct Reports

Two office workers across a desk from each other, one taking notes.

Congratulations! You’ve just landed your first management job! You’ve worked so hard and earned that promotion. The next question is: What now?

Your superiors will train you on new software or equipment where necessary and introduce new duties and responsibilities. But, like any new job, you might run into some trouble. Problems common to new managers and supervisors include:

  • Worrying about delegating

  • Not collaborating with employees

  • Micromanaging

  • Blaming others

  • Avoiding conflict at all costs

The challenge is you are now in charge of a team. If you’re a first-time manager, avoid these common mistakes when overseeing your employees.

1. Worrying About Delegating

You might be hesitant to tell someone what to do for many reasons. New managers generally don’t want to rock the boat or come off as mean or lazy. But you can’t shoulder the burden on your own.

Yes, managers typically have a higher workload than their direct reports. However, that is your work. It would be best if you didn’t do other people’s work for them.

Here’s What To Do Instead

Remember that assigning tasks is your job. You’re not doing anything wrong by giving your employees work.

Learning how to effectively and efficiently communicate expectations goes a long way, but so does politeness. You don’t have to be mean to delegate tasks or even terse. Communicate what needs doing, and work with your team about how realistic accomplishing the task or project is.

3 coworkers in a serious office discussion.

2. Not Collaborating with Employees

Many first-time managers might feel like they’re on an island—one person in charge of several or many. You might feel like you need to solve every problem on your own.

Here’s What To Do Instead

Most employees in your department have been around for as long, if not longer, than you. Remember, they’ve had unique experiences and can bring fresh perspectives to the workplace.

Need help finding a solution to a problem? Bring in someone else who usually has a creative way of thinking. Debating on some technology updates? Ask your employees how it might affect them and if they have any preferences.

Obviously, your job is to direct and lead, but collaborating with employees can help you learn more and build trust, respect, and camaraderie.

3. Micromanaging

Perhaps on the other end of the spectrum would be micromanaging. Rather than delegating a task and then letting that employee see it through, you monitor them every step of the way.

A pitfall of many new managers is conflating supervising with hovering. Too much-unsolicited direction and no agency given to workers sows seeds of contempt and leads to unhappy employees that create subpar work.

Here’s What To Do Instead

Instead of being too involved, be open to questions. Give help when asked. An environment built on respect and collaboration makes people more open to asking for help when needed.

Trusting workers to do their assignments leads them to trust you. Ensure they have what they need, then step back. Casual and scheduled check-ins allow people to ask questions and talk about what is going right and wrong. It also allows you to feel where you could step in if needed.

Graphic displaying a respectful, collaborative work environment

4. Blaming Others

When a project doesn’t get completed, or it doesn’t work for any reason, most people start to look around for how it happened. Who didn’t finish their work? Who messed up their portion? Who couldn’t manage their time?

As a new manager, you can ask these questions and may find that a specific team member fell behind. However, it’s not entirely their fault. It’s partially yours.

Here’s What To Do Instead

As a manager, your team’s performance reflects on your abilities. It may feel intimidating, but such is leadership. Take time to reflect. Ask yourself some questions before you point fingers.

  • “Was their workload appropriate?”

  • “Did I give them the resources to succeed?”

  • “Were my instructions clear?”

  • “Did I miss signs that they were struggling with work?”

Get ahead of any problems by creating an environment where direct reports can approach you if they foresee a problem. This way, you can redelegate or problem-solve.

5. Avoiding Conflict at All Costs

By reaching a management position, you’ve probably long understood that not everyone will get along. It can be self-evident at work—different work styles, preferences of music playing, or opinions on microwaving fish. And personal relationships can develop and recede, causing other problems.

It’s easy to think you must sort these problems out amongst the involved parties. However, as a manager, it’s your job to address concerns to keep your team cohesive.

Here’s What To Do Instead

Learn strategies to have difficult conversations. They aren’t fun and don’t come quickly to many people. Some organizations offer courses on how to resolve disputes. It’s a skill that makes you a better manager (and employee) for your entire career.

And, of course, as a manager, it now becomes your responsibility to reprimand employees when necessary. Here are a few things to remember when you need to have that conversation:

  • Stay calm

  • Listen

  • Talk privately

  • Be specific about company standards

  • Set clear expectations moving forward

Whether reprimanding an employee or mitigating a disagreement, remember that your position means you cannot let it affect your perception of them at work. It’s simply a learning experience for everyone.

Two people in an office smiling and talking.

Learn More Tips for New Managers

Being a new manager is an exciting, if not challenging, step in your career. The skillset to manage people is wildly different than the skill set you’re likely used to. The Regional Economic Center at Yavapai College has you covered.

Whether you’re looking for micro-credentials to make you eligible for a management position or looking for how to be the best manager possible, we have hundreds of online courses to choose from.

Sign up for training today, or reach out with any questions.

Home LinkThe REDC is a Division of Yavapai College.Go to yc.edu

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