Career Q&A | By Marie G. McIntyre, McClatchy-Tribune Newspapers

New boss should try role-playing

Q I was recently promoted to manage a group of people who used to be my peers. Even though I was the team lead for a year, I'm finding it hard to supervise my former co-workers. As their manager, I feel that I am not being authoritative enough. How should I handle this?

A: Like most new supervisors, you're suffering from "impostor syndrome." Although you've been given a management title, you're not yet comfortable in the role, so management tasks seem unfamiliar and awkward. Supervising former peers can make this transition even more unsettling.

To successfully adapt, you will initially need to engage in some on-the-job role-playing. This simply means that you must act like a manager even though you don't quite feel like one. Fortunately, your team lead experience should have provided you with a head start.

Begin by meeting with your team members to discuss their jobs and agree on expectations. Express appreciation for their contributions and encourage them to come to you with any problems they may have. Speak with confidence, even if you're still feeling slightly shaky.

You can increase your managerial effectiveness by learning to recognize how your leadership style is shaped by your natural personality. Every manager has a unique combination of strengths and weaknesses, so there are undoubtedly some behaviors that you may wish to modify.

Finally, be on the lookout for helpful role models and mentors. Seasoned managers possess a wealth of practical leadership advice that they are often quite willing to share.

She's not my boss, but she monitors me

Q: For the past few weeks, one of my co-workers has been watching me closely and finding fault with my work. She keeps telling me what to do, even though she's not my supervisor. I actually have more experience than she does. Should I tell my manager about this? I don't want him to think I'm complaining.

A: Before going to your boss, try talking directly with your intrusive colleague. Since this monitoring behavior is new, something must have triggered it, so perhaps you can find out what's wrong. The next time she corrects you, inquire about the reason for her concern.

For example: "Mary, I've noticed that lately you seem to be unhappy with my work. Am I doing something that bothers you?" If she says yes, try to resolve the issue. But if the answer is no, just tell her you're glad that everything's okay, then see if she ends her surveillance.

Should the scrutiny continue, you will need to become more assertive: "Mary, you and I apparently have different ways of doing things. I'm comfortable with my own approach, and I have no reason to change." After delivering this mild admonition, stop responding to any further criticism.

If her pestering continues to be a problem, then it's time to go to your boss. After describing the situation in a calm, businesslike manner, ask if he will remind "Mary" that you already have a supervisor.

Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach.

New boss should try role-playing 04/23/11 [Last modified: Saturday, April 23, 2011 5:30am]

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