Q: My manager has always said that he wants to hear my honest opinion. However, it now seems that he wasn’t serious about this. After I gave him some frank feedback about problems in our department, he became very chilly toward me and has even stopped saying good morning.
I have left notes on his desk asking what’s wrong, but so far he hasn’t given me an answer. This seems like some childish game, and I don’t know how to end it. What should I do?
A: The moral of this story is that employees should always be prudent and tactful when offering criticism, even when the boss invites it. Although managers may request candid comments, they are only human and can get their feelings hurt like anyone else.
Nevertheless, your boss’ juvenile behavior is completely inexcusable. But since he is choosing to behave like a sulky kid, you will have to be the adult. Leaving notes will only compound the problem, so explain your concerns in person without expressing irritation or revisiting any controversial topics.
For example: “I’ve always felt that you and I could communicate well, but lately that seems to have changed. If I’ve done anything to create a problem, I’m certainly sorry. I just hope we can return to the kind of relationship we had before.”
Should your manager reply that nothing is wrong, just say you’re relieved to hear it, and drop the subject. If you continue to be open and friendly, eventually your chilly boss will begin to thaw out.
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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 coworkers. As their manager, I don’t feel that I’m being authoritative enough. How should I handle this?
A: Like most new supervisors, you are suffering from “imposter syndrome.” Although you have acquired a management title, you’re not yet comfortable in the role, so management tasks feel unfamiliar and awkward. This transition is even more unsettling when employees are former peers.
To adapt successfully, you will have to engage in some on-the-job role-playing. This simply means that you must act like a manager even though you don’t yet feel like one. Fortunately, your team lead experience should provide 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 still feel slightly shaky.
You can also increase your managerial effectiveness by understanding 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, try to find admirable role models and mentors who can provide experienced guidance. Most seasoned managers are quite willing to share their practical leadership advice with new arrivals.