The New Manager/Administrator
By Alvin Mason
The first day someone should introduce you as the new manager. Remember you are ambitious and want to move up, so how you do in this situation will be crucial to bigger and better things in the organization. If no one introduces you to the staff, then introduce yourself, and make a mental note that the organization that you are working for does not coordinate details or encourage courtesies.
When you got the job it was either because the organization was expanding (good scenario), someone who previously had the position was promoted, retired, or went to another job (regular scenario), or your predecessor was forced out (bad scenario), but if your predecessor was a jerk it could be the best scenario.
The soap opera work issues start with which of your new subordinates applied for the position you now have. Are you from the outside, or were you selected over another coworker? If you were from the outside it is likely that someone who was not selected for the position you now have will have to train you, or orientate you to the routines that you are now responsible for.
This is a potentially sensitive situation. In some cases, the people that hire you want you to clean house to include the person orientating you. If you can walk into this situation with no sensitivity to the people or the situation, then I (Alvin Mason, Consultant/Advisor) will probably make you uncomfortable. Still, just because I am a people person and you are not, I can be invaluable to you because a good manager/administrator will get work done through other people.
I advocate laying all the cards on the table. You did not make the decision to hire yourself. So you are not the one who screwed them. But if you take the disappointed person to lunch and break the soap opera ice, at least he or she can respect you as a person. You can say….
“Listen (name)” (if you went through a similar situation) say, “the same thing you are going through I went through.” If you haven’t experienced a similar disappointment say, “I was told you applied for my current position. I know there must be some disappointment.” In all situations say, “I am willing to help you with an outstanding recommendation if you decide to leave, or I will attempt to create a position between my position and yours as assistant manager of the department, or a senior staff position with some type of increase, but that is only if we work well together.” Tell them, “It is important to me despite your disappointment in not being selected that you can respect me as a capable manager and a good person.” Make sure you follow up with the attempt to upgrade this individual’s position and get back to him or her; otherwise your word means nothing.
Understand that the first thing you have to do is become fully knowledgeable in the specific routines and policies of the area you are now charged with improving. It is ridiculous to make changes before you fully understand the operation. To become knowledgeable, you have to pick the brains of someone or people with that knowledge. There are some situations where an immediate policy change is mandated by your superiors, or the problems are so obvious that the workers should be expecting a change.
We all know people don’t like change, especially changes that restrict them. So initially, roll up your sleeves, and work with your staff. By working, you will gain knowledge of the operation and win respect from your staff. Initially go with the flow, for a month or two, and then you can see what changes are needed. Any change should benefit the organization, and help your staff be more efficient and effective in their duties.
At the same time you are learning the operation, you are accessing and evaluating the staff. You should be able to determine who the workers are and who the pretenders are.
A good manager increases the positives and minimizes the negatives. Firing someone should be the last resort. Please evaluate and warn or discuss areas where improvement is needed and if improvement doesn’t happen, then consider a change.
Normally, an effective manager can get the desired improvement and results just by telling the culprits that they recognize the problem and need to see some resolution to the problem. Your attention to detail will increase production.
I advocate talking to every individual during the first week, and the critical question you should ask is “Are there big requirements or deadlines on the horizon with any program or procedure that you are aware of that I should know about?” That question should also be asked to your superiors.
I am aware of numerous situations where a new manager came in and some requirement for funding of a program, or an existing contract required an application or report, or a delivery milestone was due at a specific time. The new manager was unaware, and no one who might have known bothered to tell them.
Some environments are negative—the people already there want to see you fail. By asking what major requirements are on the horizon, you have shifted actual blame away from yourself to whoever did not tell you.
In accessing the environment, you need to ascertain if existing problems were the result of your predecessor, isolated to your area, or organizational wide. You can only improve the environment in your area. The negatives in the organization will probably determine if you stay or not if you don’t like BS. A good indication is if a policy comes from upstairs that really does not help improve performance and lowers morale.
There are two ways the new manager/administrator can deal with BS in dealing with their staff.
The first way is to take the company line and attempt to sell your subordinates the BS. This is the safe way and your loyalty is with your superior and the company as a whole. Suppose in your heart you believe this policy is absolute BS. Is your attitude going to be, well this is my job, I will do it? Perhaps you believe, and rightly so, that there is BS in every job so what the heck. Many times fear of being fired will prevent you from challenging BS from above. How you handle any BS issue will go a long way with regards to your credibility, and the goodwill you have with your staff.
This is what I would do. I would go to my immediate superior and ask them to defend the policy and ask permission to go up the chain of command. With that challenge I will show them in a one-page report or analysis why the BS is not in the best interest of the organization, and how the negative aspects of some policy is hurting the company, i.e. negatively affecting productivity and/or the bottom line.
If that challenge does not resolve the matter to my liking, I would be honest with the staff telling them I think it is wrong, but nonetheless, I have to enforce company policy.
I have done this before and it has always improved things, because a good manager will change policy when shown how serious improvement can be easily achieved. The staff will respect you for being honest and straightforward. It is ridiculous to try to BS a grown person.
Those are a few thoughts for you. Congratulations for getting the position. Now show everyone that the right person was selected. Make believers out of non-believers, and don’t hesitate to use me. No one has to know that I am your secret weapon.