Top 10 Mistakes New Managers Make (And How to Avoid Them)

New-BossCongratulations! You’ve achieved your dream of becoming a manager. Or, maybe you’ve recently promoted someone into management or are considering it.

No matter how well suited someone is to becoming a manager, almost every new manager makes a few rookie mistakes. Read on to discover the top 10 mistakes new managers make so you can make sure to watch out for them.

1. Micromanaging. This one’s pretty obvious, but it’s obvious because it’s such a common mistake! New managers feel the need to assert their new authority and establish themselves as the boss. They also feel the pressure to ensure their team succeeds and find themselves suddenly responsible for other people’s performances. So, they turn to micromanaging to feel in control. But no one enjoys being micromanaged, and this is a fast way to turn new employees against you. Delegate, set deadlines, and establish expectations, but let the employee determine how they’ll complete the work. Have them share their plan with you so you can then give your input instead of the other way around.

2. Giving too little direction. But wait! Some people take the above advice a little too far. While you don’t want to micromanage, leaving your employees out to dry isn’t good either. Employees need to know the expectations of a project, their overall goals, and how success will be measured. Discuss what the desired outcome should be and ways to get there. Ask them for a few ideas on how they’ll complete the project to ensure they understand it, and give them suggestions for success. There is a constant balancing act between micromanaging and giving too little direction, and sometimes you need to move more one direction than the other. Mastering this balancing act is one of the keys to being a successful manager.

3. Ignoring people problems. New managers are often not given instructions or advice on how to handle people problems. They usually are promoted due to their project management skills, so they often know how to handle project problems but don’t receive training on how to address people issues. Especially when you’re trying to win over new reports or if you’re now managing former peers, it can be uncomfortable to address problems. But, if performance or attitude issues go unaddressed, employees will believe they can get away with those things, and high-performing employees will resent this behavior. Any time there is a performance or behavior issue, make sure to address it immediately with the employee in private, and consult with HR for advice. Calmly and caringly explain the issue and ask the employee what they can do to improve the problem and create a concrete plan for improvement. Be firm, but be careful to show that addressing the issue is in the employee’s best interest.

4. Taking on too much. Eager to demonstrate their worthiness of being promoted, many managers take on too much at once. They also assume they’ll be able to maintain previous production levels and even accept new projects, not considering the amount of time managing people consumes. A manager’s day is often filled with meetings and phone calls, e-mails, and office drop-ins from employees, leaving much less time for production. Learning how to balance these two roles takes time, so you should be aware of the issue and know when to say “no” to new projects or unreasonable deadlines. You should make sure to address this issue with your manager and ask for help when necessary. Learning to delegate also helps with this issue.

5. Staying the same. This is mainly an issue for internal promotions. If you were promoted internally, you may have former co-workers who are now reporting to you and may now manage people with whom you used to complain about the boss. Although you shouldn’t cut off old friendships or under go a complete personality shift, you need to make changes to how and what you say. Standing around the water cooler complaining about the management isn’t an option any more. New management should stop gossiping and display a positive attitude immediately. This doesn’t mean stop disagreeing with something or not voicing opinions, but this should be done in the right place and manner.

6. Making too many changes. On the flip side, new managers shouldn’t rush into making a ton of changes right away. Take time to adjust to your new role and establish relationships before marching forward with big changes.

7. Breaking HR regulations. Not on purpose of course, but many new managers break HR regulations without realizing it. They know to avoid the biggies such as racial discrimination, but may not think about small comments they make that could be viewed as sexist, sexual harassment, or other types of discrimination. They may say something about needing to hire a new woman for an open administrative assistant position or a guy for the warehouse and not necessarily mean it in a discriminatory way. But statements like these could easily create problems. You may also be handling confidential information such as salary and performance information, and need to know what not to discuss with others and not to leave those items in accessible areas. You also need to know what questions you can and can’t ask during an interview, especially regarding asking about personal information.

8. Focusing on privileges. This is especially a problem if other members of your team or company think they or another team member should have been given the position, are angry about the firing of the former position holder, or if you have been promoted internally. There are probably a million other reasons why people might be frustrated, tense, or nervous about the new manager, so flaunting the perks of the position is just about the fastest way to make enemies. For internal promotions, consider delaying moving into that cushy new office for a week or two for a transition period and put off buying that flashy new car. I know you’ve earned your rewards, but waiting just a little longer to show these rewards off will ease people into the situation. If you strut in showing off, other team members may view you as being arrogant and out for yourself, regardless of whether that’s true or not. They’ll only see the rewards you are getting and not recognize the hard work you’re doing or increased responsibility.

9. Being selfish. Being the boss means sharing the credit and taking the blame. It’s natural to want to point the finger at others when something goes wrong, but part of a manager’s job is to be responsible for your employees. Clearly, there are times when an employee goes rogue and is able to hide something from you, and the employee does need to be held accountable for their actions when they make mistakes. But, you should protect employees when innocent mistakes are made or when they had a hand in the decision made by the employee. You have to step up and accept part of the blame for not giving enough direction, giving the wrong advice, or not checking in with them. On the flip side, when your team does something right, make sure to credit the team members rather than hogging the glory. And finally, you should also know when to make sacrifices for your team. You need to give workers the opportunity to work on plum projects. If the team has to work extra hours, you should too. And consider giving employees the first pick for time off at the holidays or other times of the year instead of claiming the best dates.

10. Resting on previous success. Some people work really hard to get promoted into management and then expect to be able to coast, especially if they don’t want to move further up the ladder. But now is the time people will watch to see if you deserved the promotion. New managers need to keep up the pace to demonstrate that they were the right person for the job and to gain or keep the respect of employees and co-workers.

Share your own tips for new managers in the comments below!

Bonus: What kind of a leader are you? Don’t miss our Leadership Instinct quiz that will help you identify your leadership style!

11 Responses to Top 10 Mistakes New Managers Make (And How to Avoid Them)

  1. Tiffany Monhollon March 16, 2010 at 11:04 am #

    It’s interesting how there can be extremes between the first two, even within the same manager. I think balance in this area is key and think it might be a career-long effort!

    I’d also say that something to add is the idea that you don’t have to stop asking for help or advice when you move into management. But I think that’s also a hard balance to strike.

  2. Scott Keegan March 16, 2010 at 3:17 pm #

    Related to your 2nd and 4th points is not delgating or poor delegation. Some new managers find it hard to move away from doing everything themselves, and then run the risk as being seen by their team as not trusting them by not giving them work.

    The other danger is to start delegating work to your team with little or poor direction. I’ve rarely seen training in delegation for new managers but it’s one of the core skills you must master to succeed. It also takes practice to find that right blend of letting your team know what you want from them without telling them how to do the work.

    My general tips for good delegation are; set clear timelines for completion, tell them why the work matters and if possible why you’ve asked them to do it, tell them everything they need to know and follow that up in writing, be clear what level of detail and frequency of reports you need.

  3. Pat Hernandez March 17, 2010 at 9:53 am #

    Excellent points. One thing that I constantly struggle with though is my own perception of my productivity. It’s very hard to feel productive when you are spending so much time dealing with the people side of management. It takes quite awhile to come to terms with how the manager position has to measure productivity differently than when one was in the staff position.

  4. Lindsey Sparks March 17, 2010 at 12:32 pm #

    I completely agree with Pat! There are days as a manager where I don’t get anything really crossed off my to-do list, and I have to remind myself that doesn’t necessarily mean I didn’t accomplish anything. The people side of managing doesn’t really show up on my to-do list, but that’s obviously essential to my role. It does take a while to adjust to that, and I still have to remind myself of that every so often.

  5. Linda Sasser March 24, 2010 at 8:46 pm #

    Great points Pat and Lindsey! It might help if you could separate management duties and leadership responsibilities in your mind and with your team’s expectations. Manage the system, lead your people. For you “producers and achievers” out there (whom, by the way I love dearly) it will help if you redefined what achievement is.

    No doubt leading and managing requires sacrifice. Sacrificing your time due to serving your teammates first over your own 2-do list. However, this investment will pay off as your team becomes more productive due to your leadership, resulting in less 2-does on your list. 🙂

    Unfortunately, managing isn’t an investment… it’s actually a task that needs to be repeated everyday…

    Great article Express. Thanks for posting.

    • David Gibson March 26, 2010 at 6:07 pm #

      Excellent points Linda! Leading and Managing are very different and often times lumped into the same big pile. People get promoted to a “Management” position and then are expected to provide “Leadership”. The problem being that the only thing the person really knows is how to work the processes they are now to manage. The step from working a process to managing a process is very small compared to the unspoken expectation of also providing leadership to the people who work the process they are to manage.

      This is all magnified by the fact that companies usually promote people who have demonstrated self-leadership. So they are assumed to have leadership and management skills, which usually they don’t and a great producer has been turned into a substandard manager.

      Ok back on point! I totally agree a clear separation of Manager tasks and Leader responsibilites would be very helpful to those newly promoted to a management role.

  6. John Trosko March 25, 2010 at 11:39 am #

    A lot of companies tend to have a lot of meetings, especially creative companies with pipelines to discuss and plan. The meetings can last all day. Before you know it, it’s 5:30pm and work is supposed to end at “6:00pm.” When is anyone, newbie or seasoned veteran supposed to get their work done? That’s when you stay late and don’t leave until 7:30pm. In my opinion, productive or not, this atmosphere creates frustrated managers who stay late because of the pressure.

  7. Valerie Arca April 6, 2010 at 1:16 pm #

    Excellent information.

  8. Leena Kambonde July 29, 2010 at 2:45 am #

    in my opinion ithnk a manager should stay the same as he or she use to be when he or she was an ordinary employee,
    to avoid certain things like telling employees something that isn’t supposed to be told to them at that moment.

  9. Arun Mahara January 5, 2014 at 7:59 pm #

    Excellent points…about some rookie mistakes every new manager makes! Totally agreed with you Lindsey. Moreover, many of them even show their Mr./Mrs. Know-It-All attitude and don’t listen to their subordinates, once they become a new manager.

  10. July 11, 2015 at 4:58 pm #

    Congratulations! While this is an exciting time for you, have you stopped to consider the mistakes new managers make, and how you can avoid them?

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