When you’re promoted to a management position, it’s a sign that you’re advancing in your company. You’ve done something right, and now you’ve been rewarded with greater responsibilities—responsibilities that include managing others.
That’s a good thing, right? Probably. But what happens if you discover that management isn’t what you thought it would be?
It probably comes as no surprise that management, especially in the corporate world, will demand a lot from you. Once you transition to your new position, you’ll need to successfully juggle the projects on your own desk while also carving out time for the team you now oversee. The next thing you know, you’re busier than you’ve ever been. And in the hectic, rough-and-tumble of your workday, it’s easy to deprioritize your responsibilities as a manager without even noticing it.
Why? Because—I’ll say it again—you’re busy. There’s a lot of stuff coming at you, and it can be hard to keep track of it all. When a team member sends a calendar request for a one-on-one meeting, it’s easy to hit the snooze feature, but then accidentally forget about the request altogether. In the same vein, maybe someone on your team sends you an email that you simply can’t answer right away—you’re in back-to-back meetings all week—and before you know it, three days go by before you respond. There are a thousand different “neglect-to-connect” scenarios, but the message you’re unintentionally conveying is: Your needs aren’t important. I’m willing to bet you’ve been on the receiving end of that message at least once. Remember how awful it felt?
I get it. You’re a manager with a million decisions to make. When given the choice between completing your own projects or managing your team, almost anyone in your shoes would choose to focus on their own work. After all, you want to impress your own bosses, prove that they made the right decision in promoting you. But remember, choices always come with consequences; in the long run, the consequences of choosing to neglect your team could be disastrous.
Consequences are funny things. Sometimes we see the cause and effect almost immediately. For example, if you overslept and missed an important meeting, a natural and immediate consequence would be for your boss to sit you down and have a stern talk with you about punctuality and professionalism. But there are other types of consequences, long-term ones that “move” differently. They creep up over time, developing under the surface. They’re like a mold growing inside your walls: you won’t see it, smell it or even notice it at first, but then—all of a sudden—everyone in your house is sick.
Long-term consequences happen incrementally, making them that much harder to identify. And to add insult to injury, if you don’t see the underlying problem, how can you fix it? A good way to begin is by remembering that all relationships take work. If you ignore a friend long enough, he’ll stop calling you. If you keep canceling date nights with your spouse, your intimacy will suffer. In the office, where there are power dynamics in play, you need to work that much harder at your relationships to keep them from getting dry rot.
How will it play out if you don’t put that effort into your relationship with your team? To start, your team might begin feeling that they can’t depend on you. Next, a sense of being undervalued will begin percolating, which is resentment number one ingredient. As that resentment builds, your team will become increasingly unmotivated. “Why bother?” They’ll ask themselves. Finally, burn-out, frustration and exhaustion can start to take over, and for many, a new job will soon be on the horizon.
If you want to make the most of your relationships, you need to put in effort, care, and energy. Sometimes this requires a monumental shift, but more often the smallest tweaks can make all the difference in the world. So if you’re the kind of manager who’s not loving the management part of your job, here are five essentials for fostering your relationship with your team.
Tip #1: Reply to emails consistently
Make a habit of answering emails from your team within a consistent time frame. This means prioritizing these messages to some extent, but the payoff will be worth it. And if you can’t answer a message that day, take ten seconds to say, “Thanks for your message, I’ll get back you as soon as I can,” rather than just hitting the snooze feature. (Set up a one-click AI response if you need to.) Messages that are left unanswered for an extended period can create an awkwardness. Over time, that awkwardness will brew frustration.
Tip #2: Have regular one-on-one meetings
Meeting regularly with your team on conveys a lot. For one thing, you’re signaling that you value the work of each contributor. Scheduling—and keeping—these appointments says that you’re taking your management duties seriously. It will help your team set priorities in conjunction with your needs and expectations, and it opens to the door to collaboration. Perhaps most importantly of all, one-on-one time gives you a chance to check in with everyone on a personal level. If someone in your department is facing a challenge outside of the workplace, offer your support.
Tip #3: Take concerns seriously
Listening to your team’s concerns is one of the most important things you can do as a manager. Any workplace is an ecosystem; if someone on your team is having an issue with another employee, is “stuck” on a project despite their best efforts, needs you to approve a software upgrade, or has some other concern, it’s your job to help—or at least get your team resourced—before these issues upset the balance within your department. And if you can’t help right now, explain why and offer a timeframe for revisiting the issue.
Tip #4: Use your power for good, not evil
Being a manager inherently means that you have some level of authority. You hold a power card, even if it’s not the highest-scoring card in the company deck. You assign your team members’ projects, you write their annual reviews, and you’re their voice to the executive level. Which means you also have the power to shape your team’s work successfully. Pay attention to who excels in certain areas, who struggles with others, then delegate projects to each person’s strength. When you have team members who are doing outstanding work, it’s also your responsibility to sponsor promotions, title changes, or compensation bumps. Remember: if you don’t advocate for your team, no one else will.
Tip #5: Give feedback, both positive and critical
Being a successful manager requires giving feedback. It’s not an easy aspect of your job, but feedback is crucial to your team’s development. If a team member is doing well, don’t be stingy with words of praise. Conversely, if someone is struggling or missing marks, it’s your job to offer constructive feedback for improvement. As with any critical feedback, use caution and approach it from a place of support. Be prepared to identify problem areas and cite examples. But most of all, once you’ve identified a challenging area or less-than-ideal behavior, offer help: give specific ideas on how to change it. A good manager never lets anyone on their team sort out these kinds of issues on their own.
Most managers are never told that management is as much about relationships as it is about the other parts of their job. Being a better manager doesn’t mean you need to love managing, but it does mean that you have a responsibility to those you oversee. Use small moves to create big changes: when done consistently and genuinely, these five tweaks will help create healthier workplace relationships—something we all deserve.