What I Wish I’d Known as a First-Time Manager

Advice from 10 people on stepping into a brand-new leadership role

Anna Goldfarb


Credit: sorbetto/Getty Images

Your first management position will probably come with some growing pains. Sure, it’s exciting to land a larger office, new title, and pay bump, but all those things come with new expectations. You’re held to a different standard now: In addition to doing your job, you’re also supposed to be a leader, coach, and mentor to your subordinates — and you probably shouldn’t be letting off steam with them in the break room or participating in office gossip sessions.

The transition can be especially tricky if your employees don’t respect you, if there’s any kind of personality clash, or if you don’t have adequate support. It can feel overwhelming to navigate. It can be lonely.

Below, people who have been there talk about what they wish they’d known before stepping into a managerial role, the challenges they faced in their new positions, and how they coped.

Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

A new title doesn’t automatically translate to respect.

I thought that because of my new title, my employees would automatically respect my authority. That didn’t work very well. Some resented my promotion; others just didn’t want to fall in line. I told my manager, “You’ve got to have a meeting and tell everyone I’m the new sales manager,” but he said telling them wouldn’t do it — I needed to earn the title, and only time and hard work would make that happen. Ultimately, he was right. Working with the salespeople in the trenches day in and day out is what really elevated my status. I wish I knew that having a title doesn’t make you a manager — being an effective leader is what gets people to fall in behind you.

— Barry Kronhaus, 53, entrepreneur, Lake Worth, FL

It’s hard — but important — to maintain boundaries.

I wish I hadn’t tried to be so connected with my staff at first. I had started by having lunch with them, and really had to move away from that because it became too intrusive, especially because I was privy to management concerns and news that I couldn’t share. I…



Anna Goldfarb

Writes about relationships and pop psychology for The New York Times, Vice, and more. Author of “Clearly, I Didn’t Think This Through.” Lives in Philly.