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Preventing Job Promotion Panic

“I’m good at my job, in fact, I’m so good at it, I’ve got promoted.  Brilliant – I really wanted this.  Oh God, now what do I do?”

They say you should be careful what you wish for, you may get it.  A new management role is a great achievement, but often quite daunting.  It’s a bit like making the transition from senior school to college.  You were in the top stream, and acknowledged as such.  Moving to third level though, you’re expected to know what to do – Teacher’s not going to write a note to Mammy if you’re not pulling your weight.  Instead, you’re accountable for your own motivation, work effort and results.

Preventing Job Promotion Panic

Don’t let a crisis of confidence stop you from succeeding.  Remember, all your peers and seniors experienced ‘new role’ collywobbles.  If they deny this, they’re either megalomaniacs or liars.  A bit of nervousness about a promotion shows you’re anxious to do a good job.  The trick is to use this concern to get off to a good start, and not let it paralyse you.

It’s a dilemma.  The core skills that brought you to this promotion may be strongly based on technical ability and expertise.  Chances are, your ability to communicate and work with well with others has also helped.  Your critical challenge now, is to have the confidence to manage other people to acknowledged standards.  Here are some of the most common pitfalls, and ways to avoid them. 

  1. As was done unto me, I will do unto others!  It’s all very well taking inspiration from your previous manager, but if his management style was right of Atilla the Hun, you may need to tone-down the aggression.  Sure, that may be the way you were treated, but if you can bear in mind how you LIKE to be managed, rather than how you WERE managed, you’re more likely to develop good rapport with your team.
  2. Bull in a China Shop – if promoted from within, you probably already have clear ideas about things you’d like to ‘fix’ – and you may be absolutely correct. Careful though, the team has ideas about you too, and not everyone is on your side. Try to get the people who will be most affected by change involved in planning (when practical).  If you are genuinely open to their ideas, they may come up with helpful suggestions in designing or implementing the changes.  A variation on this pitfall is the external appointment.  Brought in from outside, you repeatedly say, “when I was in MyCo, we used to….” (think Uncle Albert in Only Fools and Horses – “During the war…”).  Bring your fresh perspective in by all means, just be careful not to rub people’s noses in it by making them feel you regard them as inferior.
  3. Trembling Poplar – the counterpoint to ‘The Bull’, is the new appointment who seems invisible.  It’s most common among internal promotions, and is manifested through the manager’s own fear.  Fear of getting things wrong, of looking stupid, of losing friends.  Being paralysed by fear means avoiding making decisions, not giving feedback, letting the team manage you!  Remember, the people who appointed you believe you can do the job, so why don’t you?  Who can mentor you, someone you can pick up the phone to when you need a bit of advice?  Perhaps there’s a training course that helps in areas where you have least experience.  If you either don’t recognise that you need some support, or don’t ask for it, people will hold you accountable for your lack of action.  As for losing friends, you can still be friends with former colleagues, just be clear on boundaries. (Don’t play favourites.)
  4. Lean on Me – a frequent sign of over-anxiety. “How efficient, dedicated and indispensable am I!”  You take on everyone else’s problems and deal with them yourself – after all, only you can fix them.  Wrong. If you’re constantly fighting fires, you’re not managing.  Of course there are times when you need to sort things out yourself, but that shouldn’t be the daily routine.  When you’re doing other people’s jobs for them, you’re not doing your own.  By encouraging people to resolve their own issues, you develop their skills.  One approach I used successfully, was that when people tried to ‘dump’ their problems on me, I used to ask them to come up with at least two possible solutions.  They soon learned that coming to me without suggesting ‘sensible’ options was a waste of time.

Don’t panic, embrace your new role.  We’re all human, so on the occasions when lose your rag or get stressed, remind yourself what you’ve learned since you started.  Remember how well you’ve progressed so far.  When you get your next promotion, you’ll think, “Brilliant – I really wanted this.  Oh God, now what do I do?”  This time, though, you’ll know the answer.

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