…because some thoughts are worth remembering
A new manager is often surprised by how a promotion can change the way people interact with them all of a sudden, even in a small office. I often hear, “I haven’t changed from yesterday, but today I’m their manager, and everything is different.”
It’s important to note that the transition is tough for both parties.
I’ve heard the others ask me if they needed to schedule an appointment to speak with me when I got promoted to president, when they were walking into my office without knocking a week before the announcement was made.
It was interesting how I had to be more open than I usually am to emphasize the fact I hadn’t changed. I didn’t wear jeans to work til then, but I started wearing more casual clothes (and kept a suit for when I had to attend external meetings) to work. If “the gang” invited me out for a bite to eat, I made sure I went, even if I would have taken a rain check a month before. I made sure I hung out near their desks more as president, and avoided eating lunch at my desk. And speaking of desks… . I made sure to switch the orientation of the desk so it was not getting between my staff and myself (i.e., my desk was pushed against the wall and my back will be facing the door, so when they came in to speak with me, it was just me in a chair and them, without a desk between us).
The biggest learning experience was when I was joking with my staff, as I usually did. I made some observations (on non-work matters…like someone scooped the ice cream in a hurry like a child) and it was received as “pointing out an error” or a “scolding”. It can be a close call. So close, that I know many CEOs who stopped fraternizing with their staff all together, because it gets too hard when you have to lay them off, or have other professional encounters that might not be pleasant.
I had to draw my own line, like I should not be in charge of my staff having fun when we go out to eat together (though they often asked me to manage the pizza topping ordering). But in the end, I kept my friendships, knowing the risks. It ended up helping me treat my staff with respect: by sharing both good and bad news about the company or their performance.
There’s no right answer that fits everyone. I’m glad I found my right answer on this topic.
Photo: Ceiling of the indoor food market in Rotterdam, Netherlands