A New Manager in a New Workplace

Divya Singh

A new Beginning. Fresh energy. Renewed enthusiasm. Excitement to embark on a new journey in a new organization.

It was not a normal day for him as this was his new job. He was happy for a new start. So many hopes he had for this role. He believed it was his capability that led him to this higher role in such a big organization.

And, another side of the story. in the organization, his new team members were becoming anxious about the new manager. They were apprehensive regarding how their new boss would be and whether they could easily make adjustments with him or not.

On the first day of the office, he got busy with joining formalities, orientation sessions and meetings with seniors. He had lots of hopes for better days in this organization. And, yet, there were lots of people out there who had already become judgmental about his capability.

Above could be one such scenario that most new managers might face in a new organization. Yes, it’s a sad reality. There are prejudices towards a new person even before he or she has contributed. When a new individual starts getting such negative vibes, there are two choices for him or her. Either, he or she should make a constant effort to contribute positively without being disheartened or fall into the trap of being demotivated and hateful toward such people. And, those new managers who choose the second choice would definitely have hard times in the new place. This, I believe, is a vicious circle, because hatred leads to even more hatred from both ends.

So, what should a new manager do? The obvious answer could be the first option of making an effort. This journey of accepting a new organization and being accepted by others takes a sheer amount of hard work and good intentions. Let’s look at some ideas which could make the life of the new manager and the others in the team much easier.

1. Learn Organization Culture
Culture is a thread that binds people together in an organization. It could be as simple as a gesture which people use like a handshake or giving ‘hi fives’ when meeting colleagues, or it could be going to lunch together, or it could also be a working environment that makes employees feel comfortable approaching their managers without an appointment. For an instance- a foreign friend comes to our home, she says ‘Namaste’, we instantly feel connected and appreciate her effort to learn our language. Another instance could be an organization that encourages open communication and hence, has an open workspace, where all have open working cubicles. And, if a new manager joins and expects a separate cabin for him or her, it sounds so weird. Learning about good organizational culture is the foremost thing that any new manager should start with and should continuously make an effort to mingle in that.

2. Study, Study and Study
The first few months are all about studying the organization, it’s functioning as well as one’s department’s past activities, existing system, processes and priorities. One should make an effort to study about organization’s strategic elements (vision, mission, values, long and short-term plans) as well as get acquainted with cross-departmental knowledge as well. The more the new person studies, the more clarity it gives when one is ready to take an action. Many times, a new manager makes mistakes by taking initiative without ample preparation. And, without any study and analysis, they might make the mistake of replicating practices of their former organizations in the new place. Even best practices may not work in the new organization as they should be contextual first. Practices that worked wonderfully in the past organization could be a failure in another organization. So, it’s a blunder to ‘copy, paste’ one’s success story as well as initiate any new steps without any thorough study of the new organization.

3. Give Acknowledgement to Past Practices
There is constant pressure of being watched by seniors and everybody. So, the new manager could feel the urge to look good and do more in front of Senior Management. Because of this, he/she might fall into the trap of only finding mistakes and introducing many changes instantly. Yes, there is no doubt there could be lots of areas for improvement. However, it’s a nice gesture to acknowledge past achievements and good practices of the past employees, the department and the organization.

4. Build Relationships 
Very popular Blake and Mouton’s leadership grid talks about two leadership orientation-task oriented and people-oriented. Out of the five types of leadership styles in their theory, ‘Team Manager’ is considered as the best one, who is high in people as well as high in the task. No doubt, this theory is very practical. However, at the very beginning, people aspects should be taken care of. At the start, it’s more about building relationships with one’s team members, seniors, and colleagues and more importantly with juniors as well. Such a bond breaks the barrier of non-acceptance. It’s not the only mistake of a new manager for becoming more task-oriented, it could be the organization’s culture and Senior management’s expectation that has pushed him or her in doing that. However, the new manager can make an effort in balancing management’s expectation of being task-oriented and also the need of being people-oriented to build bonds with the new team. Strong relationships will surely help him or her in the future whenever he or she initiates new changes. Despite all efforts of the new manager, there could still be exceptional people out there with whom battle never seems to cease. In such cases, it’s better to ignore such behavior and maintain professional relationships with them.

5. Talk with more people
Rather than thinking ‘I am the manager, so my team and colleagues should approach me first’, the new manager needs to take a step and approach more people. Initial conversations should be more casual when one opens one’s heart and listen to others more. Also, talking with many people saves managers from being biased towards some employees. If the new manager remains in the circle of limited people only, then there is a higher chance of becoming judgmental towards some employees based on bitter experiences shared by his or her colleagues. So, being confined to a few people at the beginning could narrow the horizon and mindset of the new manager.

6. Take an action and make an impact
After all such initial efforts in learning organizational culture, studying in-depth, acknowledging past practices, building relationships, and yes, talking with more people, it’s time to take action. Thorough study and frequent conversations in the initial days could bring clarity to underlying issues of the organization and the department. And, also this gives direction to the new manager on taking wise decisions to take the right action. While choosing initiatives to drive first, it’s wise to select those areas which are most valued by the team as well as the senior management. While doing this, it’s also good to initiate some actions which make the lives of one’s team members easier as well. Also, before initiating any new changes, it is good to involve one’s team in the discussion and generate new ideas. Because of the active involvement of the team, their resistance towards new changes could be lesser and ownership of the new decision would be high. This is necessary because, in the end, implementation happens at the operational level.

There could be many instances of being disheartened at the new workplace when things do not turn out as expected. It will not take much time to have less enthusiasm and less energy when things turn differently. Management expects more contributions in the shortest span of time and this gives immense pressure on the new manager. However, he/she needs to keep on reminding himself/herself that ‘I am here to perform, yet I need to win hearts as well’. Here comes the need of becoming a Team Manager who could balance focus on both tasks and people. Former CEO of GE Jack Welch has said, “Just because you are the boss does not mean you are the source of all knowledge”. By opening one’s heart to new relationships and new learnings, and not being confined to oneself, hopes and dreams of a new manager could become reality. This could eventually benefit the organization and team.

Divya Singh is visiting faculty, trainer, HR professional, SHRM-SCP (Society of Human Resource Management-Senior Certified Professional) and HR consultant. She can be reached at divyasinghyolmo@gmail.com. 

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