Before you became a manager, your working life had an order to it. You understood the flow of cyclical pressure and managed it accordingly. You had a structure and a plan. All your clients and candidates received great customer service and you were successful. Hence the move into management. They want more of you!
When you accepted the role, you had so many plans for building the perfect team. You had seen others make mistakes and were determined not to fall into the same trap; you would always have time for everyone as you know the lack of management interaction frustrates every consultant.
Now you are 3 months into the position and surrounded by challenges. One of the team left as they felt the role should have been given to them. Others in your team are resisting the changes you want to implement as they liked things the way they were. No-one seems to understand the information you are sending out internally and you are certain that your line manager is wondering whether they have made the right decision. Each working day starts a little earlier and ends a little later, as you try to fit your to-do list into the time available. And as a result of all this internal distraction and noise, you have started to drop the ball with your clients. So now it is not just the team revenue below target, but your personal sales figures are dropping as well. The net begins to tighten.
Every new Billing Manager goes through this cycle as they learn to prioritise and manage each aspect of the role, through changed daily habits and the acceptance of delegation. However, it is just prior to this change that you reach peak stress and are most likely to react badly to members of your team.
When you started managing the team, you were keen to offer help and spend time at their desk supporting them. They will have benefited hugely from this and are now probably missing the support as your time has been eroded. Yet they still crave the attention and will certainly ask for help. And even if those requests are suppressed due to your demeanour, there will certainly be a situational challenge that requires your attention. And it is probably the neediest consultant who you have been meaning to have a conversation with about their constant requests, but not got around to due to your poor management of your time and priorities. This is the time you are most likely to crack and deliver a disproportionate negative reaction.
‘I don’t have time; can’t you see how busy I am?’
‘Seriously not now!’
‘Just sort it out for yourself’
It is also unlikely any of these sentences would be delivered with any level of calm. You are stressed. The question adds more pressure. Subconsciously, you need them to know you are under pressure. So, you deliver with both barrels……. and immediately regret it. But the cat is out of the bag now, so you stick your head down and get on with the rest of your day.
At this point, several possible negative outcomes are triggered.
- Your team see a weakness and lose a little faith.
- Individual team members take this as permission to react in a similar manner.
- Team members feel low priority.
- Others in the open plan office see your outburst.
- The team go home and start to feel stressed about going to work in that environment.
- You arrive home and start to question your ability to manage.
The easiest course of action is to go back to the office the next day and carry on as if nothing happened. You have calmed down, the team haven’t mentioned it, so why bother bringing up the tension again. It would be difficult to discuss and might bring unwanted emotions to a fresh day. Everyone carries on with their role and a new higher benchmark of acceptable stress levels and their impact has been set for the team. The next time a contentious or urgent issue arises, everyone feels it is okay to express their stress and annoyance at the interruption. Their manager led the way. The transfer is complete.
So how can we avoid this negative slide to unwanted behaviours and reactions:
- Apologise without trying to excuse the behaviour in any way. (The ‘non-apology’ apology that comes from justifying would only dilute the action and possibly leave team members thinking it’s acceptable to behave that way if you chuck in a ‘sorry’ afterwards.)
- Acknowledge your own poor time management, increased workload and associated stress resulted in your outburst.
- Explain that you are looking at how to start delegating some of your workload. Discuss options with the team. Most, if not all, will be keen to support you and take some responsibility.
- Speak to your management peer group. Ask how they adapted to the role.
- Speak to your line manager and be honest about the challenges you are facing. It will not be a surprise to them, and they can offer support, advice and possibly a direct change in short-term workload. (They certainly won’t be giving you any more tasks during your transition once they know you are acknowledging the challenges.)
All teams welcome a manager who is honest, passionate and human. It’s normal for a new manger to go through a tense time adjusting to their new role, but you are not alone and should embrace the resources around you, such as team, peers and your own line manager.