I have a serious problem with my new job role. I recently got promoted to manager of my team and I can’t cope with the staff. The problem is I used to be one of the workers and now I’m their boss and they don’t like it one bit. This has put me in an awkward position as I have to allocate their tasks and hold them accountable.
When I try to do so, they range from being openly hostile ‘you think you’re too good for us now’, to completely ignoring me, arguing with me or generally making my life hell.
My confidence is shot and as I’m not very assertive, so I don’t force issues with them.
I love my job and want to rise up the ranks, but how can I find the confidence I need to get my team to respect me?
I think you’ve hit the nail on the head when you say, ‘I’m not very assertive’. When it comes to dealing with difficult people and managing relationships, assertiveness is one the key solutions to building connections and getting people to respect you.
It’s also common for people to struggle with transitions and change (that’s why organisations have change management experts!). What you’re dealing with is a lot of different emotions coming at you from your team. Some of them might be envious of your new role, anxious about being led by you, sad about losing you from the general team.
Try not to take it all too personally. As with all change… people adapt over time.
Until that happens there are steps you can take to start addressing your situation:
1. Set down your ‘BOUNDARIES’.
Write out what you are prepared to put up with and what you are not. Make it clear to yourself what you think is acceptable behaviour and what is not. Once you’re clear on your boundaries, you’ll know when someone is overstepping the mark and you can then take appropriate action.
2. Drop the need for approval.
If the people you once worked with can’t remain friendly with you, then you need to prioritize your management role and let go of the friendships. In a work situation, your job role comes first; being liked comes a close second. You’re getting paid to lead a team, so in order to maintain your integrity (and sanity), this is where your loyalties must lie.
It doesn’t mean you can’t be friendly, fair, kind and understanding. But it does mean that the boundaries as a leader must be kept firmly intact.
3. Learn assertiveness skills
Most people think that being assertive is something we’re born with or taught when young. But actually, it’s a skill that can be learnt by anyone.
It sounds like you’re a ‘passive’ communicator right now, which means, ‘Allowing others to assert their rights whilst disrespecting your rights’.
And that’s not on.
You don’t have to become an aggressive ogre, or bossy, or mean. You just need to stay clear on your requests and repeat them until action is taken. You may have to step out of the friend zone and refuse to laugh anything off. Keep your eye contact steady, with a gentle smile and firm tone.
At first they might think you’re being a bit weird! Your new way of communicating may confuse them as they’re not used to you acting that way.
But hey…who cares what they think!
Show up and keep doing it.
Sooner or later they’ll get the message that they can’t demean or bully you.
You will get much better with practice and grow in confidence as you use assertive language and communication over a period of time.
You can download my free Assertive Guide here.
4. Let time pass.
When people say time is a healer…it is. As I mentioned at the beginning of my response, change management is huge in organisations, because people find change HARD.
But all in all, people are very adaptable and when they get used to an idea, they tend to come around in the end.
5. Refer To The Rules.
On a practical note, you can get copies of everyone’s job descriptions and have one to one meetings with each of your team.
Tell them you want to clarify their job role, so you know which tasks are best to hand over to them. During that meeting, you can ask for their advice and opinions and generally warm them up. People love being consulted and if done authentically, you should foster some good-will.
This will do 4 things:
- Make them feel included and part of the process.
- Subtly get them to take responsibility for which tasks they should be doing
- Show them that YOU know which tasks they should be doing
- Allow you to use the psychology of ‘divide and conquer’, which means getting individuals away from the group and onto your side. Once they have this personal time with you they can get a chance to express their concerns and see you mean well.
6. Keep your cool.
Your power lies in not getting caught up in the drama of others.
Their perspectives, opinions, emotions and behaviours have nothing to do with you. They are projecting their insecurities onto this situation and that is not your business. You need to stick to your guns, hold onto your boundaries and let them get on with sorting out their own issues.
7. Ask for training and support.
It’s not a weakness to admit you’re struggling, it’s a strength. If you can ask for specific support around managing transitions, dealing with difficult behaviour and being assertive, then that will take you a long way. You can also self-study about all of those issues and read up on the material that’s already out there.
8. Work on yourself.
If you do learn how to be assertive, but still can’t apply it…then you may have fear blocks.
Write out the worst possible outcomes, what you’re afraid of and get a real close look at what’s in your own way. Often our fears of the present are inherited from the past and it might be time to clear some of that up.
Before you can get anyone else to take you seriously and show you respect, you have to give that to you yourself. Assertiveness can teach you what to say and how to say it, but it won’t root out the inner self-talk that makes you doubt yourself.
You can start by asking yourself questions like:
‘What does it mean about me if they don’t respect me?’.
‘What’s the worst thing that can happen if they don’t like me anymore?’.
‘What’s so scary about being challenged?’.
Ask these types of questions to get to the root of why you feel so threatened about asserting yourself.
If people continue to dislike you, then that’s unfortunate, but the sky won’t fall down.
You have been given the managerial role, I assume, because you’re capable of doing the job. You accepted it because you wanted to challenge yourself and grow professionally.
Believe in yourself and stay on your own side.
If you know you’re making your BEST EFFORT to be fair and supportive to staff, whilst maintaining the interests of yourself and your company, then that’s the thing to focus on.
There might be days when you fret and long for your friendships, or feel overwhelmed, or get scared.
Be assertive anyway.
In the challenging times, your values and boundaries are your rocks upon which you can rest. They are EVERYTHING.
When we decide to stand up for our rights, we need to stand strong.
Letting go of the need to be liked, or to please others takes a leap of courage… and one that must be taken if we’re going to live a life that matters.
To your success.
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Linda Bebbington is a psychotherapist & life coach, specialising in beating anxiety, building relationships and overcoming blocks to success.
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