Congratulations! You’ve been hired in a managerial position! Your whole family is really proud! But oh man: You have no idea what you’re doing. It was hard enough to navigate a job as just another brick in the wall, but now you have to manage other people and exert authority like some sort of adult or something. The horror.
Instead of succumbing to your nerves, realize what’s at stake here: keeping this job, locking down that steady paycheck, and keeping Mom happy. Plus, keep in mind what can be gained: a pay increase, better benefits, and actually succeeding at interacting with other humans without freaking out and making things get all weird.
Here are some common stressors you may encounter as a manager and tips on navigating these obstacles to show you’re not a pushover, jerk, or generally just a goblin:
You Don’t Know Anyone At All!
It’s stressful walking into a room not knowing anyone. Now replace “room” with “office” and factor in wanting to impress your superiors and having to wear a freakin’ tie every day (what are you, some kind of animal?). Familiarize yourself with your team so you can feel less stressed and secure that “Best Boss” coffee mug. The best way to make sure your employees don’t spend their days hunkered down at their desks composing hate emails about you is to really get to know them and their strengths.
- Step one: learn their names. Calling everyone “Hey, you” may appeal to your lazy side but does not make you likeable. Be proactive. Introduce yourself immediately to everyone and explain your new role. Study the hell out of the seating chart so you know what everyone looks like.
- Get the run-down on your employees and where they come from. Ask them directly or have another manager fill you in on their backgrounds. This will help you to know how best to assign them, and it will be a great conversation starter. “Hey! You’re from Topeka, Kansas? What a coincidence! Me too!”
- Make sure you know the hierarchy and your spot on the totem pole. Then, get a feel for the office culture (yes that means you can drink now and then).
Pro tip: Do all of the above on the first day. Even better, do it before your first day (social media is your friend). When it’s six months in and you’re making a presentation at the company picnic, you don’t want to heartily compliment Sam on his excellent TPS report-writing skills in front of everyone when his name is actually Steven. You will look like a schmuck and feel very stressed.
You’re Already Drowning in a Mountain of Work
When you’re a manager, you have to worry about your job as well as your employees’ jobs. You’re now responsible for your own success and theirs. It’s completely normal to be stressed out especially if the position (and the required managerial skills) are new to you. But don’t let it get to you. You’ve earned this job. You are fully capable of executing your responsibilities. You are a goddamn star and it’s time for you to shine.
- Take a breather. If you feel yourself getting stressed out, go outside, grab a coffee, or walk around the block. Meditation and morning exercise can also be helpful (this is a good time to Downward-Facing Dog your stress away). Don’t let anyone in the office know how overwhelmed you are, even if you know them well.
- Don’t wallow in your frustrations. Work sucks, sure. But it will get better. Instead, make observations and mental notes about the issue and brainstorm on how to deal with it, whether that means working some extra hours until you have that project under control and gently reminding yourself that you are a shining star (see above).
- Switching office buildings, schedules, train lines, and teams can be difficult for anyone, no matter how often you happy-hour your anxieties away. The first day (and probably month) will likely be physically and mentally exhausting. This is normal. Give yourself time to adjust before you completely flip out and start beating yourself up.
I Want to Be Everyone’s Friend and Boss
If the cloak of leadership is new to you, you may have no idea how to handle yourself in social situations at work. It can be nerve-wracking. There’s a fine line between being one of the cool kids and having your employees and superiors respect you. Get off on the right foot while maintaining a sense of authority by emphasizing the need to work hard as a team. Prioritize making the office environment the best ever — both friendly and productive.
- You should be nice, but you’re not their best friend. Avoid complaining about your bosses and gossiping about intra-office strife. This will cause unecessary tension. Also, remember to control how much you drink. Office happy hours are great but endless scotch-and-waters and accidentally-on-purpose bad-mouthing your superiors are decidedly not.
- Even though you’re the boss, do not assume that your employees are magical work elves sent to do your bidding. In other words, don’t ask anyone to get you coffee or pick up your dry cleaning unless that’s in their job description. Total punk move, dude.
- Set up one-on-one meetings with your team for the first week, and regular monthly or weekly ones after that if you have time. People are more likely to be honest about a work situation in private than in a group. You can address any troubles head-on, and your efforts will demonstrate that want to get to know your coworkers as actual, live humans instead of robot drones.
Is Everyone Having Fun?
Finally, express excitement to your coworkers (those above and below you on the totem pole) about your job. Show them that you are pumped about your new position and can’t wait to get to work. Positive attitudes are infectious (and reduce stress) and you want your team to look forward to coming to work every morning. When in doubt, buy their love with sugar-filled breakfast pastries.
Being flexible about your employees requests (yes, they can work from home today while their dog is sick) will make them love you, and again, an occasional box of donuts never hurts. (Just be sure to buy enough; people are thirsty for donuts.) Being forthright about your expectations and learning who your coworkers are as people will make them respect you. Follow this advice and you’re bound to be a successful manager. And don’t let stress-induced sweat get you noticed for all the wrong reasons — apply some
Gillette Clear Gel. You’ve got this.
Jessica Ferri is a writer based in Brooklyn. You can find her at jessicaferri.com.
Illustration by Rob Dobi.