Asking for a Friend//

I Worked Hard for My Manager Position, But I’m in Over My Head. Should I Say Something?

A Gottman therapist says if the new role is taking a toll on your well-being, it’s time to speak up.

Zoff/ Shutterstock
Zoff/ Shutterstock

Editor’s Note: Strong relationships are at the core of a happy life, but sometimes, dealing with the people in our lives is tricky. That’s why Thrive Global partnered with The Gottman Institute on this advice column, Asking for a Friend. Every week, Gottman’s relationship experts will answer your most pressing questions about navigating relationships — with romantic partners, family members, co-workers, friends, and more. Have a question? Send it to [email protected]!

Q: I’ve been at the same company for a few years, and I’ve finally gotten a managerial position that I’ve worked so hard to achieve. I love the people I work with, and I’m glad to take on the new responsibilities, but at the same time, I’m completely overwhelmed. Managing other people is harder than I thought, and I’m way over my head. I want to succeed in the position, but I’m having trouble prioritizing my tasks, managing my workload, and getting home in time each night to still connect with my family. Should I say something to my boss or just try to power through? And how do I get my family to understand what I’m dealing with? 

A: Yes! By all means, speak up! Do so ASAP, both to your manager and to your family. And with that said, congratulations on your promotion! 

But truth be told, the very skills that landed you your promotion — being good at the technical aspects of your job — are different from what will make you successful as a manager.

It’s a funny thing that promotion into management often takes you away from the very things that brought you that promotion in the first place. It’s not more of the same — it’s actually something totally different. I’ve worked with many first-time managers who have privately confessed that they feel like a fraud in their new role as a manager. And research substantiates this: For example, a 2016 survey of 500 managers found that 44 percent felt unprepared for their role, and 87 percent wish that they had more training before becoming a manager.

While we need a license for so many different activities and jobs, people often become managers without any idea of what that means. Many executives that I coach are surprised when they receive negative feedback about their management style — they are unaware of how they are perceived.

The parallels of managing your personal relationships and your workplace relationships are evident, as both require strong communication skills and a high level of self-management.

I’m hopeful about your future success because although you are overwhelmed, you recognize it. This self-awareness is key. Great managers have high levels of self-awareness. And management is mostly a set of learnable skills. Within the management skillset is a significant core skill: relationship management.

It’s obviously beyond the scope of this column to provide management training, but let me introduce you to the Sound Relationship Workplace (see image), a model that I’ve developed based on Dr. John Gottman’s Sound Relationship House. Over the years, I’ve trained many a first time manager using this framework. Whether you’re building colleague maps, learning how to provide feedback and effectively delegating, learning to manage conflict, and intentionally building a positive workplace culture, these relationship skills are critical to succeeding as a manager.

Many new managers are thrust into their new roles without their organizations setting them up for success. The costs for the organization due to failures in management are significant, so it’s your responsibility to tell your boss that you are in need of support. Turn towards your manager. Go get some management training. Ask for it. Get a mentor. And get clear on your goals (are they the same as before the promotion? If not, how have they changed since you signed on for your new role?). For the members of your family: turn towards them. Explain to them that your promotion is, in essence, a new job. There is a learning curve, and you will need some time to get up to speed. Share with them what you learn as you learn about being a manager. Inform them regularly about your journey as you build love maps with them pertaining to your job. Assure them that things will get better (because you will take the steps to receive training and support). As you become better at managing yourself, all of your relationships will improve. 

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