You’ve finally left behind the office coffee run. There are people to do it for you now. And you no longer have to hustle your way to payday by rationing your fancy dinners. But with such perks of promotion come challenges. Scary challenges! Like managing the team. Tricky at any age, but even more so when you’re younger than your reportees (something that’s becoming more common as 34% of managers are now millennials, according to a 2018 survey by Totaljobs). Whether you’re climbing the corporate ladder or managing your own start-up staff, here’s everything you need to know about being a young boss.
You’re Friends With Your Colleagues
One minute you’re downing drinks and sharing 4am car rides with them, the next you’re having to call them out for coming to work late. Yep, we hate to break it to you, but as soon as you’re at a higher designation, relationships with co-workers will have to change.
The Solution: Don’t pull up the drawbridge completely. Meet your co-workers for an office lunch (skipping that tongue-loosening glass of wine), or conduct your meetings in informal spaces. Curious team members trying to squeeze office gossip out of you? Find a party line, and stick to it, rehearsing it beforehand. Also, remember that “every day you are setting an example”, or so says Amanda Bradford, Founder of the dating app, The League, at 30. Conduct yourself as you’d want your employees to. If you rock up late to a pitch meeting, with excuses that are more creative than your actual ideas, it’s likely your team will start to follow suit. Make a list of five traits you expect from them, and ensure you’re owning them yourself. If not, it’s time to knuckle down.
You Don’t Know Where to Begin
Okay, you’ve been handed the baton of responsibility, but now you’re suddenly paralysed by expectations. Landing a new role is one thing, but living up to the shiny, hireable self you portrayed in the interview feels like a different story.
The Solution: Put together an action plan for the first few months. Start with small tweaks—like cancelling the useless Tuesday evening meeting—rather than making sweeping changes just to prove your authority. Phrase new developments in a way that flatters your team, not shows weakness, such as, ‘I have some ideas of my own, but I really value your opinions’. Then, around a month in, ask your team how they feel about what you’ve done so far and what else they’d like to see. From that, figure out bigger priorities.
You Need to Have an Awkward Conversation
Your former peer/friend is making slip-ups at work. Where once you’d help them stay afloat, now it falls on you to sort it out.
The Solution: Don’t procrastinate or things could spiral further. Sit down with them for a one-to-one chat, gather as many specific examples of their behaviour that you’re addressing as you can, and make a bullet-point list of what you need to raise that you can take along with you. Then ask questions like, ‘Is there a reason you’ve been missing deadlines recently?’. This opens up a dialogue, prevents the person from getting defensive, and gives them an opportunity to answer in a constructive way. Later, send a follow-up email outlining what was discussed to crystallise the conversation. It can also serve as evidence that you’ve tried to address the problem head-on, something you’ll need should you have to get HR involved later.
Someone’s Seriously Acting Up
Sometimes, no matter how proactive you are as a new manager, there’ll be rebellion in the ranks. It could be an older, more experienced member undermining your ideas, a jealous colleague, or just someone with an axe to grind. If you don’t nip it in the bud, the disrespect could spread.
The Solution: Unfortunately, if it’s something you’ve tried to address before, and it hasn’t worked, it’s time to call in the big dogs. The HR team can be a great ally in times of conflict if you’ve prepared properly. Keep comprehensive notes, including times, dates, and specifics of what you’ve done to resolve the problem. “These are the sort of details the HR Head will ask for, and you should be able to demonstrate that you’ve taken steps to address the conflict before taking it to them,” says Danielle Atkins, Chief Brand Office at Kodak. But the most important thing to consider? Your mindset. A conversation with HR will benefit both you and the other person. “By controlling that damage, you’re creating more opportunity for both,” says Danielle.
The Last Boss Was Awesome
When you’re embarking on a new managerial role, it’s easy to take your predecessor’s blueprint and follow it exactly, especially if you worked with them and gelled well. But as for living up to their glowing legacy? That’s leaving you with some serious career fear.
The Solution: Remember this is an opportunity for a fresh slate, for everyone. If you worked with your predecessor, ask yourself, ‘What wasn’t I too keen on about their management style?’. Perhaps they were unpredictable, or ultra rule-oriented. You should try to provide a refreshing contrast. If you’re new, set up one-to-ones with key team members, asking what they liked—and didn’t—about the old ways. But take cues from your own personality, too: find a role model who’s comparable to yourself, and copy what they did to embrace your traits. Super-extroverted? Follow Richard Branson and use your golden charisma to get the job done. Empathetic? Channel Sheryl Sandberg, who always seeks the opinions of junior team members. But, above all else, try to remember that you landed this job for a reason, and that nobody’s immune to imposter syndrome.
Millennial Manager Toolkit
Your guide to making a team-leading debut
Conversations Of Inspiration Holly Tucker, Founder of online boutique, notonthehighstreet.com, dishes out big-boss smarts and interviews with similarly impressive leaders to ask their advice.
The Making Of A Manager: What To Do When Everyone Looks To You Written by Julie Zhuo, consider this read your ultimate starter pack, complete with genuinely relatable examples and illustrations. Out now, Rs. 479, amazon.in
THE TED TALK
The Discomfort Zone Farrah Storr, the ex Editor-In-Chief of Cosmopolitan UK, explains why we fear the unknown in life and work—and exactly how to conquer it.