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How to be someone’s first manager

by on
in Leaders & Managers,People Management

Do you remember how you felt on the first day you went to work--the first day on your first job? Most of us are excited on that first day--but also a little scared. Happy to have a job (and a chance to make some money), but a little worried about what's going to happen. There's so much we don't know, like what exactly we'll be doing. And whether we'll like it. Whether we'll fit in. And what our supervisor will be like. Being that supervisor can be a mixed blessing.

With fall rolling around, many of us have new employees fresh out of school, or even still in school, joining our teams, and we're learning firsthand the joys and the challenges of being an employee's first boss. Here are pointers to keep in mind:

Stay focused on the bright side. Young employees right out of school are usually eager to please and have a lot of energy. You don't have to worry as much about bad work habits, because they haven't had a chance to acquire any, and you won't be dealing with know-it-alls who tell you, "We didn't do it that way at my last job!"

If you can just harness their energy, focus their attention on the work to be done, and help them maintain their enthusiasm, you'll have set them on the path to job satisfaction and success. Plus, you'll have gained pleasant and productive employees.

Expect the predictable challenges. On the other hand, truly green employees often have needs that others do not. In addition to the guidance that all new-to-you employees require, those right out of school may need to learn some basic things about the world of work and about your workplace.

For example, inexperienced workers may not understand what's expected in the way of acceptable clothing or personal appearance. They may not be aware of safety factors or the customer relations impact of their dress, grooming and manner. They may not realize that a 15-minute break lasts for 15 minutes--not 16 or 17 or 25. They may not understand that they are expected to not wander around or visit with other employees the first time they get tired or bored with what they're doing.

Reinforce what you want. You'll get prompt responses if you reinforce better behavior instead of jumping to criticism or punishment when you don't have to. Take the time to explain what is expected--not only from people in their particular positions, but what the general work rules (written and unwritten) require. At the same time, give them lots and lots of recognition and positive reinforcement for the good things they're doing. Show them that they matter to you, that you're on their side, and that you care what they think. A two-way discussion on work rules, habits, and expectations will get better results than a lecture every time.

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