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What I Wish I’d Known Before … Taking My First Job Managing People

May 26, 2018 What I Wish I'd Known Before 1 Comment

The most fulfilling part of your career can be helping others advance in their careers.

I wish I would have known how good my HR department really was and how well they supported me in being a first-time manager. Every company I have worked for since then has had terrible HR resources and I’m not really sure who they were there to serve. When I had my manager hat on and needed to deal with disruptive employees, they seemed to support the employees. And when I put my employee hat on and complained about MY abusive manager, I was treated terribly. I miss that first team. They were the best.

That I’d spend 80 percent of my time and effort on 20 percent of my staff. That some people feel compelled to give details when calling out sick. That promoting someone would feel so rewarding.

I wish I’d known that managing is dealing with other people’s problems much of the time. Once I came to this realization, it became easier to plan for the kinds of things one must handle. Illness, messy personal situations, child care challenges, addictions, money trouble, and host of other things intrude on the work place and impede people who want to do a good job from being able to focus. Then there are the people who don’t really care about doing a good job. That’s another thing I had to realize. One can assume positive intent from staff, but that works a lot better after a rigorous hiring process has taken place to prevent the people who really don’t care from ever making it in the door. Another important set of lessons has to do with learning how to manage people out of the organization in a humane way. I’ve been on the receiving end enough to know that there are good ways and bad ways to manage someone who isn’t a good fit for their job. It’s still a tough thing to do but knowing how to do it right – setting fair expectations, communicating them clearly and repeatedly, and then holding the individual accountable for their performance – makes it less painful for everyone involved.

I’m in sales and love sales. I wish I had known that I like commissions more than I love managing people before I took my first management job.

That responsibility with no authority is one of the most frustrating situations to be in. If you’re responsible for getting X amount of work done, but you don’t have the people power to do it, management will say “tough cheese”. At one job, I was reduced to working nights and asking relatives to help pick up the slack from my tiny team.

Also, that a lot of people these days want so much more out of work than a paycheck. You have to be a cheerleader, counselor, drill sergeant, and about 16 other things in order to get some people to do their job.

That eventually the confluence of political correctness and regulation would make the real, personal aspect of working relationships a facade that only attempts to mimic human potential.

The skill set for managing people is very different than the skill set to do the work. You are equal parts boss, friend, mentor, confidante, etc. and there’s a fine line between the first item and the others. You will end up dealing with so many more personality and HR issues than you anticipate and you should be prepared to deal with not only workplace issues but people who can be dealing with pretty rough stuff in their personal life. I think many of us who now manage people didn’t know beforehand how much emotional intelligence you will need to be successful.

That other managers that still feel like they need to be a “boss” instead of a “leader” would feel threatened by a true leadership style of management. Although challenging at times, being a leader is highly fulfilling.

We have two ears and one mouth. Use them in proportion. Listen and engage first. Your people can provide you with all the direction you need to be successful.

That there are way more variables to consider than what you think you have learned in college and from observing others. If you don’t have a mentor, find one!

That most of the stuff (AIDS, AIDS hysteria, divorces, affairs, thefts, partner abuse, alcohol and drug addiction, mental health) were not mentioned in my MBA curriculum.

This is a tough one because there are so many things to choose from. I wish I had known that it is OK for a decision not to be universally liked. They will come around. I think also as a business owner I wish I had known how many people are poor personal money managers — save some money, people!

That “managing” people really meant being the parent to a staff of adults and my parental duties included conversations about personal hygiene, basic etiquette, and trying to instill a work ethic in them regarding the need to come to work EVERY day of the week. Also, that my “children’s” feelings would be hurt when I didn’t make it a point to tell them good morning every day. Giving up a management position to become a consultant with no employees working under me was a very good decision!

How to more effectively manage up and outside of my direct reports for an environment that would support productivity without “political” distraction.

If you are being promoted, making the transition from peer to manager is tough. I found the best approach is to be honest and humble.

You are being watched all the time. If your team sees you become anxious / freak out by bad news, they will be anxious. If you walk by someone and don’t respond when they say hi, you could ruin that person’s day. Every action is magnified, good and bad.

Being a manager doesn’t mean you have to know all the answers. You have a team of smart people that are good at their job — you should empower them.

The “my job is to make my manager look good” approach is garbage. My job as the manager is to make it easier for my team to do the job(s) they are really good at.

Managing people is more rewarding for me than being an individual contributor, but the satisfaction from watching your team grow and improve takes a long time. You sometimes have to look harder for the daily and weekly wins to keep yourself going.

Being promoted doesn’t mean you should force everyone into doing their job the way you used to do it. Set the expectations and let each person determine the approach that is best for him or her.

The huge impact that my immediate supervisor would have on my ability to carry out my responsibilities.

In my first leadership role (as a chief resident for a busy and intense residency program), I was fortunate to be supervised by people (including the departmentt chair) who were supportive yet gave me a fair amount of authority to make my own decisions (with appropriate consultation). They would back me up if the other residents tried to go higher up the hierarchy behind my back. They were also available without being intrusive and treated me respectfully like a colleague rather than dumping things on me simply because I was lower on the feeding chain. This is not to say that management was easy, but it was doable and possible to do good things (and learn to manage people) with appropriate support and guidance.

That’s in contrast to my current chair, who micromanages, second guesses, makes decisions that affect my division without telling me, frequently changes priorities and directions, and keeps everyone stressed out and on edge. The higher-level administrators see my current chair as smooth and efficient and they accept his finger-pointing and explanations of the reasons for our department’s poor performance. Though I now have 25 years of clinical and leadership experience, I am treated like a scut puppy and supposed to jump when he gives the word. I’m just grateful that this wasn’t my first experience in management or I wouldn’t have attempted it again.

How “the people” would be both the best part and the worst part of my new job.

How hard it is to get rid of poor performers.

How often managers keep poor performers around and don’t let them know they’re poor performers (either because they’re afraid of the conversation or too busy to deal with the performance issue).

How it’s harder to measure your contributions. It’s no longer about how many tickets you close or issues you resolve. It’s how you empower your team and support them and manage their work intake/output.

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Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. My wife taught a management course at a junior college long ago, and asked the class how they’d deal with a poor performer. One young woman responded, “It shouldn’t matter if they’re poor or rich. We should treat them all the same.”

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