6 huge mistakes rookie bosses make

They like me! They really like me!

We all make mistakes. From the CEO down to the worker bees. Most errors can be fixed and almost all forgiven.

But as a new manager, there are six major mistakes that can quickly define you as an ineffective leader. Fix these six pronto—or better yet, avoid them altogether—or your stint as a boss will be short, or torturous until you’re replaced:

1. Succumbing to the imposter syndrome. The imposter syndrome is that not-so-fuzzy feeling a person gets when he or she feels that they’re really not cut out for the job; that somehow the person who promoted them into the position just didn’t know any better. This sensation usually hits when a new boss is suddenly surrounded by knowledgeable, seasoned subordinates. Just remember, you weren’t hired to compete with and top the talent, but to direct it.

2. Mishandling difficult conversations. Employees will test you. They will stray from their responsibilities, squabble with each other or challenge you. Your job is to pull them in for “a talk” when these things happen. As a new boss, this is where you have a chance to set the tone before your employees have the chance to paint you—right or wrong—as a softie, a pushover, tyrant, etc. Your reputation starts here.

3. Making changes just to establish authority. What better way to send an “I’m in charge” message than to shake things up? Rearrange the furniture, shuffle job duties, eliminate something, anything. Be careful here. Employees could sniff out when you’re throwing around empty weight.

4. Delegating too much or too little. You know all that stuff you don’t want to do? Just pick your employees and start dumping. Delegating anything you possibly can is a sure morale killer as you do nothing but overwhelm your staff with work, leading to anxiety and burnout. On the other hand, delegating nothing will build a team of sloths, who aren’t being groomed for much else but to like you.

5. Equating effectiveness with popularity. “They like me,” you think. “I must be a great boss.” Employees sometimes like a boss only because they’re getting away with doing a minimum amount of work. To be an effective boss, you must gain the respect of your workers by being fair but firm. Challenge them to achieve.

6. Following the path of least hassle. Good bosses take some lumps to get there.


Cal Butera is the editor of Business Management Daily’s Office Manager Today, Manager’s Legal Bulletin, Managing People at Work and Communication Briefings newsletters. He has been with Business Management Daily since 2007 and worked 22 years for midsize daily newspapers as sports writer, news reporter, layout and design editor, copy editor and city editor.