As a New Supervisor, is Respect Most Important? Part Two

March 5, 2018

As a New Supervisor, is Respect Most Important? Part Two

In a previous post, you decided not to make a change which your employees (represented by Candice) wanted. You need to let Candice know. How can you promote both her respect and liking and still disappoint her?

Saying No

Don’t be off-hand about telling Candice. That is, don’t throw it out over a coffee break or send her an e-mail. Doing so may promote the idea that you don’t respect her—and by extension, the group’s—ideas. Instead, set aside some time to talk.

You: Candice, I’ve thought about it and I don’t think the process change is a good idea after all.  
Candice: What? But you wanted it, too. Give the reason. Calmly.
You: Yeah, but I didn’t realize that the other sections need to know what’s coming so they can plan their work. Don’t expect her to fold.
Candice: But we can do any fixes in the next release. Keep trying to explain.
You: But that holds up the other units’ work.  
Candice: Not that much. Anyhow, they’re always whining. You don’t have to justify forever.
You: I think it’s enough so that we need to stick with what we’ve got.  
Candice: Come on, Mia. You’ve got to defend our group. Ignore the implied insult. Try to wrap up.
You: I know you’re disappointed, Candice, but I think it’s better to leave things as is for now. If she keeps arguing, repeat variations of this line.

And this will get you respect? Nope.

With this action, you’ve settled the issue but it won’t automatically lead to greater respect. And this makes sense.

With any new boss, everyone spends the first little while trying to figure out which way the wind blows. You might think this won’t happen to you. After all, you’ve worked with most in the unit for years. But it will. Although they know you as colleague and fellow employee, they don’t know you as boss.

So judgments on whether you are to be respected will only come later. This action is one of many things over the next few weeks that will be watched.

What are they watching for?

As with any new boss, they’re wondering whether you will be fair, respect their ideas, give them credit for good work, bend rules when needed, defend them against encroachments (however defined) from other units, get what they need from upper management, etc. etc. All expectations unique to a management role.

So, in the early days of supervising the unit, you will be under scrutiny and every action will be read like tea leaves to see what it portends.

In the example we’re using, deciding not to change the process may make them wonder whether you will have their best interests at heart or whether you’re just interested in kow-towing to the bosses. It’s hard to tolerate these suspicions even if unspoken, but it’s important to remember that you can’t establish your credibility or their trust and respect overnight. And much as they might be looking for early signs, what you need to do is continue to do the right thing for everyone, not just for your group. Over time, your group will come to understand that this is your perspective and respect you for sticking to your guns, even if it isn’t always what they want.

This might sound a bit Pollyanna but it does work. Just not in the short term and not without a lot of effort. Welcome to management.

Next post: Building respect.

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