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From Employee to Manager: Do’s and Don’ts for Success


You're taking the big step from employee to manager. For the first time in your career, you're about to become someone's boss. Congratulations!

But, as Spider-Man learned, with great power comes great responsibility. Don't be surprised if it takes a while to find your footing. Along with a shift in roles, you'll experience a change in expectations; employees in your position are often surprised and dismayed when the rules of the game suddenly change. As you navigate this period of growth, be patient with yourself and keep these do's and don'ts in mind.

DON'T be afraid to make difficult decisions

Like everything in life, effective leadership is a skill that can be learned. As a manager you may have to make unpopular decisions and be prepared to stand behind them. You may have to do things that you've been taught not to do, but you can rise to the challenge. Some risks you take will be mistakes, but that's still part of the learning curve. This can be confusing, but if you maintain a student mentality, you will catch on in no time.

DO be clear with your team

As a manager, you can't always count on specific directions from your supervisors. You may have to exercise your own critical thinking and decision-making skills. You'll then need to work harder to provide exact instructions to your team. Strive to have regular one-on-one meetings with your team members. Transparent goals and expectations for them will mean greater credibility for you.

DON'T be afraid to ask for advice

When you don't know what you're doing, admit it (at least to yourself) and get help. Don't flail around or commit to a course of action that isn't working; reach out to a mentor or supervisor and ask for the advice you need.

DO navigate your changing relationships.

Between friends and co-workers, a shift from peer to boss can be a fraught process. You may feel that your friendships are in peril for a while—or, at least, in a state of confusion. But you can get through this together. Treat your friends-slash-employees like adults, and expect the same from them. Remember the age-old workplace rule: To get respect, give respect. Be honest and direct when you hit a conflict, keep communication channels open, and don't let problems simmer. Talk it out and move on.  

DO accept your teams as they are.

Your direct reports may not look, act, or think the way you do. But diversity brings strength, and leadership doesn't mean forcing others to adopt your perspectives. Rather, it means identifying the strengths on your team and deploying them where they're needed; it means listening to input and ideas that may differ from your own. This is a learned skill, so don't panic if it doesn't feel natural at first. Keep applying pressure and working hard to move outside the boundaries of your own worldview, and let in others.

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