A killer mistake new managers make

by on June 18, 2010 · 14 Comments POSTED IN: HR Cafe
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New managers must know they are always on stage

In my early years as a manager, one of my favorite employees came into my office and closed the door. She was furious. “You just publicly humiliated me,” she said.

I had no idea what she was talking about. We’d come out of an uneventful meeting where nothing close to a “dressing down” had occurred.

Turns out we were talking about a report she’d prepared. I’d offhandedly remarked that she’d “missed” something.

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Now, I suppose I could argue that she was being too sensitive. But that would completely miss the point, which is that everything a boss says and does is magnified.

New managers leave the group
Every new manager eventually figures this out. Initially, new bosses often think they’re “one of the gang” and believe they can continue behaving as they always did. That’s the biggest mistake a new boss can make. You’re NOT one of the gang anymore. You’re in a position of authority. You represent the company.

You’re on stage and everybody is watching everything you do and say.

That gives you tremendous power to do positive things like motivate people, align their behavior with company goals and help coach them in their careers. But it also increases the likelihood that you’ll screw up the way I did — unintentionally embarrassing a person in a meeting.

How about you? As a manager, have you ever forgotten that you’re in the spotlight and said something that came back to haunt you later? Tell us about it in the comments section.

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14 Comments on This Post

  1. Sara M.
    June 18, 2010 - 10:03 am

    Thinking you're “one of the gang” is especially dangerous when new managers drop their guard during social activities like after work happy hours. They must be reminded that even when they're off the clock, they still represent the company.

  2. Sara M.
    June 18, 2010 - 10:03 am

    Thinking you're “one of the gang” is especially dangerous when new managers drop their guard during social activities like after work happy hours. They must be reminded that even when they're off the clock, they still represent the company.

  3. Tony
    June 18, 2010 - 1:27 pm

    Couldn't be more right. About a year or two back I was in a meeting and made a snarky comment to a coworker towards the end of it. Before I was a manager I'd do it all the time, but this time I did it and the room fell dead silent. First time I realized the game had changed now that I was in management.

  4. Tony
    June 18, 2010 - 1:27 pm

    Couldn't be more right. About a year or two back I was in a meeting and made a snarky comment to a coworker towards the end of it. Before I was a manager I'd do it all the time, but this time I did it and the room fell dead silent. First time I realized the game had changed now that I was in management.

  5. Rebecca
    June 21, 2010 - 8:14 pm

    Agreed. This is especially hard for newly promoted managers from the ranks.

  6. Rebecca
    June 21, 2010 - 8:14 pm

    Agreed. This is especially hard for newly promoted managers from the ranks.

  7. Rebecca
    June 21, 2010 - 4:14 pm

    Agreed. This is especially hard for newly promoted managers from the ranks.

  8. Rebecca
    June 21, 2010 - 4:14 pm

    Agreed. This is especially hard for newly promoted managers from the ranks.

  9. Rayn
    June 25, 2010 - 6:37 pm

    I had a manager tell an employee that she looked as if she just came off the farm because she had braids in her hair. When the employee reported this to her supervisor, and expressed that some staff are culturally insensative and she was insulted by this statement. Her supervisor laughed so hard and that is the funniest thing I have every heard and stated to this African American female, well be glad she didn’t call you a pickaninny. To me when I heard this story it’s horrible and very derogatory. This worker went to her supervisor and expressed how the farm girl statement was an insult and walked away feeling hurt and disapponted in her supervisor for also being culturally insensative.

  10. Rayn
    June 25, 2010 - 6:37 pm

    I had a manager tell an employee that she looked as if she just came off the farm because she had braids in her hair. When the employee reported this to her supervisor, and expressed that some staff are culturally insensative and she was insulted by this statement. Her supervisor laughed so hard and that is the funniest thing I have every heard and stated to this African American female, well be glad she didn’t call you a pickaninny. To me when I heard this story it’s horrible and very derogatory. This worker went to her supervisor and expressed how the farm girl statement was an insult and walked away feeling hurt and disapponted in her supervisor for also being culturally insensative.

  11. BD
    August 20, 2010 - 6:26 pm

    I think another point should also be made that it makes no difference as to what your intention was or wasn’t, it’s how your remark was received or perceived that matters.

  12. August 23, 2010 - 11:28 am

    The credo of good bosses: Focus less on what to do, more on how to think

  13. August 23, 2010 - 11:28 am

    The credo of good bosses: Focus less on what to do, more on how to think

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