is it a bad idea to work for a first-time manager?

A reader writes:

I need help in assessing the pros and cons of going to work for someone with no experience managing direct reports.

I’m currently employed with an organization where layoffs are looming in the near future, and I have started looking for a position with a hopefully more stable company. I have over 10 years of experience leading teams or managing programs in IT and am looking at senior mid-level roles. I’m currently in the process of interviewing via a recruiter for a role that seems very promising and checks off almost all my boxes. Yet in the process of learning about the hiring manager, I discovered that this person is a recent graduate (less than five years ago) who was rapidly promoted into a role that now sees them managing people. I would be the first person they hire and manage.

This very concerning to me, as I’m afraid that someone with little experience may need too much managing up. I’m currently in a position where I’m managing up quite a bit, as my director is completely checked out and hands-off to the point one wonders why their boss isn’t “managing” either. So I’m rather averse to going somewhere I’m once again doing the work of my manager. I also know that people with little to no management experience have the tendency to be micromanagers as they gain confidence in their managerial abilities. I have a meeting with this new manager in a couple of days, so will be learning more about what they see the day-to-day being like.

If it weren’t for the major pay increase this new role would have, I would decline going further with the interview process. Yet here I am because of the money, weighing the pros and cons of working for a new manager. Is the pay increase worth taking a risk on a new manager or is this a red flag that I should not ignore despite the amount of money being offered?

I can’t tell you whether or not you should take the job. It depends on too many factors I don’t have access to, like how good everything else about the job is, what your other options are like, your financial situation, and so forth.

But all else being equal, I would be very cautious about working for a brand new manager if I had the choice.

New managers are pretty uniformly bad at it for the first year they’re managing. They’re not all bad in the same ways — I don’t agree with you that they’re all likely to be micromanagers. Some of them are! Some of them are overly hands-off, or too hesitant. Some of them are small tyrants, and others are so uncomfortable with authority that they don’t use it when they should. Many of them don’t know how to delegate well, or don’t know how to give useful feedback. Lots of them manage with no nuance — applying rules rigidly because they haven’t yet learned how to get comfortable within the grey. Some of them continue operating the way they did before they managed people, rather than making the adjustment to leading a team. Many of them don’t know how to manage up and advocate for their team effectively. Some of them try to be BFFs with their team, and some of them hold themselves at such a distance that it’s alienating.

Some of them are weird blends of lots of these things, like the very common scenario of a new manager who’s too hands-off but then, after that causes problems, suddenly swings wildly in the other direction and becomes too micromanagey.

I guarantee you that everyone who’s a good manager now had some of these traits when they first started managing. The only way to learn to manage well is by doing it, and so the first teams someone manages are by necessity their learning opportunites — which is generally no fun for those people.

That’s not to say that every new manager is a horror show. Some are better than others, and new managers who have intensive, hands-on support from a skilled manager above them will do better than those who don’t. But all new managers mess up in myriad ways in the beginning. There’s no way around it. Very few people are great at a brand new skill when they first start out. And even people who were able to practice in lower key ways earlier — like managing a project, rather than managing people — still have a huge learning curve when it comes to doing it for real. There are just a zillion challenges that come up that no one can prepare you for, and even with good judgment, you’re going to mess some of them up before your instincts are fully developed. It’s hard.

Of course, many experienced managers are terrible too. Some of them are so terrible that a garden-variety bad first-time manager would be preferable.

But all else being equal (which it rarely is in life), I’d at least take it as a caution sign about a new job. Not an absolute reason not to proceed — but it’s a negative, not a neutral.

{ 184 comments… read them below }

  1. Ben*

    I’m currently working for a first-time manager who is really, really, *really* bad at managing. He’s read every book and says all the right things and means really well and is just a total failure at it and has no real support from his own manager to get better. Everything Allison wrote here resonated with me.

    1. Alianora*

      Can I ask what things he does that make him a total failure, despite saying all the right things? Does he say he’ll do one thing and then do another?

    2. FunTimes*

      I was in this situation and it was so bad that I left the job. But I work for another newish manager now and it’s 180 degrees difference. Not all new managers are terrible! Also, the grand-boss can make a big difference in this situation – I’d try to meet them, too.

    3. Angela*

      I was in a similar boat. I was their first ever employee reporting to them, and they went to all sorts of books and random sites for advice. But it came off as immature and inexperienced since they couldn’t distinguish what was important.

      And they had only worked at that single company, filled with execs who had only worked their for 15+ years, so they learned every bad or unusual management quirk straight from above. They had no experiences to give them perspective on things. (Like how it’s not normal to routinely read through your employees emails and instant messages in case they badmouth you. Or that if something isn’t being done properly, there should be multiple discussions about correcting it instead of going straight to letting them go.) I’m pretty sure my manager never knew what a PIP even was because that company never used them. They just let people go all the time with no warning or reason given. (They had an extremely high turnover rate, especially for a company that size.) Having experience on managing people the right way would’ve been a breath of fresh air!

    4. Wired Wolf*

      Our first new manager was just on a power trip, brought in a petty tyrant and they both made termination-worthy mistakes not even a year in (she was targeting me because I’m far more experienced, we like to think that I got her wound up enough to make those mistakes). Our current manager was bad when he took over (upper management isn’t big on training, the guy’s heart is in the right place but he refuses to tap our accumulated knowledge because heirarchy); the company brought in someone’s relative who really should not be here.

      1. Wired Wolf*

        The relative is our direct supervisor which makes things interesting….he’s pissed everyone off by implying that I’m “not focused” (I’m the last person they want to annoy, I am the last original hire left and know a lot about a lot) and his ineptitude is spreading to other departments.

  2. Spreadsheets and Books*

    My last job was for a first time manager and it irrevocable ruined my chances to move up within the company. I was left in the dark on so much for so long that there was no way the SVP’s perception of me was ever going to change. He had no idea how to train me, so I got drips and drabs over the course of months. For over two years, all I got were empty promises of taking on new projects and responsibilities. It got to the point where he would mention things he planned to do later in the week and I would try to teach myself how to do them before he got there because that was the only way to learn.

    He was an excellent employee — truly fantastic at the non-managing part of his job. But he had no aptitude or training for being a manager. I can only hope the person who filled my role is having a better experience than I did. I do miss parts of working there and I really miss my old team, but moving on was the only way I was ever going to move up.

    Allison is spot on. If you move forward, do so with caution and a game plan for how to approach a truly naive and inexperienced manager. I wish I knew what I know now when I started at that job.

  3. Jedi Squirrel*

    I’ve worked for people who have had years of management experience and they were still bad at managing things. I’d almost rather work for somebody who is new at it. They might not be the bad.

    The real question here, how much do you feel like managing up? And are you capable of that?

    1. ieAnon*

      Yes, I had a first-time manager who was not great about some things, but that I worked really well with. She was respectful of my time and always ready to give new/interesting projects.

      She left and I have a new supervisor who has years of experience, but is terrible! Micromanager, petty tyrant, etc. etc. I was just getting serious about my job search last month, and now I’m afraid I’ll be stuck here for the foreseeable future. I would love to have my first-time manager back!

      1. Jedi Squirrel*

        Oh, I’m sorry that is happening to you. Keep searching, though! You never know what’s out there.

    2. TooTiredToThink*

      Yep. If I was working someplace where I was already managing up but making x money and knew I was going to be making y money in the new job but *might* be managing up? I’d go with the unknowns at that point.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yes, if it’s a question between the current job and the new job–you might as well dislike managing up at a more stable company with higher pay! But if they believe it’s likely other opportunities will come along that they are considering holding out for then that certainly is a more difficult question.

    3. dragocucina*

      Yep. I think it’s more person than experience dependent. I’ve worked with new managers who knew what they didn’t know, asked questions, appreciated non-controlling feedback, and really grew into the position. On the other hand I’ve had new managers and managers with years of experience who could never accept they didn’t know everything or could make mistakes.

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        I feel like knowing what you don’t know and being open to learning it is such an important quality in any employee. I truly believe it takes a certain degree of maturity to get comfortable with being in that space and expressing it appropriately.

    4. Curmudgeon in California*

      I have “raised” (managing up), as an individual contributor, several first time managers. I even ended up coaching one poor guy who had to lay me off! (He was taking it worse than I was.)

      Some new managers can’t be coached, either by superiors or direct reports. They have to fall on their faces on their own. The best thing with those types is CYA and/or leave.

      If their manager (your grandboss) is any good at their job, they will provide coaching/mentoring to the newly promoted manager. Sadly, many 2nd level managers don’t do this.

      New managers are an unknown quantity. Sometimes, taking a position with one can help both you and them.

  4. Merry*

    Yikes, I’ve recently accepted a promotion where I’ll be doing my current job but also managing a few employees for the first time, and I know this is honest but so stressful to hear. I am grateful that my current manager is one of the best I’ve ever had so hopefully will guide me through this.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Everyone was a first time manager at some point. If you weren’t scared, that would be a much bigger issue! You have time to learn.

      You also literally can’t learn to manage on a big enough scale until you’re doing it, it’s not like becoming an expert in painting or assembly or programming or whatever else. It’s a whole new game because of that human factor, humans are all different and unpredictable and volatile.

    2. AnotherAnon*

      Semi-new manager here! (1.5 years in) There’s definitely a learning curve but at the same time I don’t feel I was HORRIBLE. My best advice is to be receptive and encourage input from you team, but understand at the end of the day it’s your job to make the decisions and deal with the hard things. Good luck!

      1. Uranus Wars*

        I am about same tenure as you in management.

        I think the hardest part about being a new manager is that normally, it’s as part of a new role. So you are trying to figure out your new role and your new manager as well as figuring out how to be a manager, and in my case on of the people I was managing was in a new role. It’s all sorts of challenging.

        Plus, like Becky Lynch said you can’t learn some things until you are actually doing them. For the year leading up to my promotion, I shadowed and did key parts of the job and STILL had trouble adjusting and getting into a good routine and groove.

        So it was all a crap shoot and I was way to hands off. And my poor employee and I are finally on the other side of it.

    3. Sara without an H*

      At least you read Ask a Manager, so you’re better off than I was when I took my first management position. (Alison was probably in elementary school then…)

      Couple of suggestions: 1) Get to know your people well; 2) Make sure you’re clear in your own mind about what outcomes your group needs to achieve; 3) make sure you’re aligned with your own manager’s goals and expectations.

      Best of luck to you! I’ve always found management kind of rewarding, once you get the hang of it.

    4. Lavender Menace*

      I’ve been a manager for a little over a year. The first year is hard, even with a good manager to help you navigate through (which I had and still do). I was uncomfortable with the authority – it took months for me to even think of myself as a manager.

      It’s just like learning anything else; there’s a learning curve and a lot of flailing. The difference is that you’ve got people who are directly affected by your flailing, and you have to figure out how best to support them and in some ways inure them, a little bit, from the consequences of your learning curve.

      1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        Thank you for acknowledging that your reports are directly affected by your flailing. It’s one thing to cop to “I was new and I wasn’t so hot at first”; it’s something else to appreciate that your mistakes affect others.

      1. Reluctant Manager*

        I’m relatively new at it, but I’ve worked for a number of excellent younger managers. Here are things I try to remember:
        1. Sometimes you have to be the bigger person in the conversation.
        2. It is very possible to think very little about what your direct report thinks/feels but almost impossible not to look for clues to what your boss thinks/feels. Someone is trying to read you.
        3. It is a sign of strength and good leadership to praise your team instead of yourself.
        4. (as a former strong individual performer) Know when to offer your advice, when to give direction, and when to let it play out.
        5. Remember that your team wants to do a good job and looks to you to tell them how.

        1. Reluctant Manager*

          Oh! And the best one, from my mom: The job of the manager is to be the shit umbrella and protect the shit from above from falling on the team.

    5. pamplemousse*

      Think of it as permission to forgive yourself when you screw things up. A lot of people get promoted to being managers by being great individual contributors and especially if you already know the company, the processes, etc, it can be really deflating when you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing or realize you’re screwing up. Realizing that this was a new job, it was a learning curve, and it was SUPPOSED to be hard at first really helped me.

      I’ve been managing direct reports for almost three years now. I’m not a great manager yet, but I’m better than I was, and I find the work so rewarding. You’ll get there!

  5. AnonymooseToday*

    So I’m 95% sure all my professional managers were first time managers. I’m not completely sure about my first one, but they were great. Set up regular check-ins, gave us room, but were there when we needed them. I was only there for two years and worked on a grant, so pretty specific stuff that didn’t require a lot of management oversight.

    My first manager in my first full time permanent position, first time manager. Ended up being awful. They were great when people first started, but they didn’t know how to manage people who knew how to do their jobs. In my profession, many people become managers to get the jobs they want (libraries) but never wanted to be managers, and very little training offered. This manager ended up becoming a complete absent manager, wrecked my career path at my job, I’m most likely never going to be able to move up where I am now because of them. It was because they realized they never wanted to be a manager in the first place. Plus their manager was completely absent, didn’t know how to delegate, or set up routines, so they had no one to teach them.

    My current manager is also new, but much more willing to work with us. Goes to bat for us, backs us up, asks our opinion, doles out work great, gives feedback. Also has a personality that, so far is managing up with their manager. It’s only been about a year, but so far not bad.

    Mostly I think the best thing is to just ask them a lot of questions about managing. When I do that in interviews, it’s pretty obvious which ones have thought about it and which ones haven’t. When a department head seems surprised that I’m even asking about management style, doesn’t know how to answer the question, or makes a joke about not being a micromanager, tells me a lot. The good ones will tell me about their style, routines, what they expect from their employees, and even let their other employees chime in (not super helpful when we’re all in the same room, but still tells me something).

    1. Lance*

      That last paragraph is exactly what I was thinking. The next interview is one-on-one with the new manager… so that’s the ideal opportunity to do some probing, see how you mesh, see what you might expect from them for the future. Especially because it’s one-on-one, it can give you a good view of them without any outside influencers.

      Go in with some skepticism, of course — after all, if they were rapidly promoted, then there’s a reasonable chance they’re not ready for this — but also go in prepared to get a feel for them more so than anything else.

      1. Amaranth*

        I’m curious if OP learned about the manager’s ‘new’ status from the company or through outside sources. If the former, I’d be wondering if its a quiet invitation to manage up — the question is if its an expectation from the manager or the company.

    2. Sara without an H*

      Yes, definitely have some probing questions ready when you interview with your prospective manager. You’ll want to find out if they have a clear idea of what success in your role looks like. If the answers indicate that your newbie manager has put some serious thought into that, you might want to take a chance on them.

      If they have no clue, or if they’re taken aback by the question — keep looking.

  6. Salad*

    As a counterpoint, I have a brand new manager and he’s probably the best manager I’ve ever had…..That being said I work in a position where managers are usually very hands-off. Which is fine, I like being able to do my thing and we are all generally treated as competent adults. I’ve never been micromanaged and without that’s it’s hard for a manger to actually mess stuff up. These are pretty much the options:
    1. Manager has no idea what’s going on, pretty useless, figure your own stuff out. When you have problems you would normally take to a manger, figure it out with your coworkers. I’ve had one of these and he didn’t last long.
    2. Manager is generally competent but doesn’t really manage unless there is an issue. Lots of them (but not all) are still individual contributors, at least to a lesser extent. They are somewhat helpful in some things but you are still largely responsible for figuring your own stuff out. Almost all my managers fall here. I don’t mind it generally. And since I’m used to this it wasn’t too big of a deal the one time I had to deal with #1 – I just relied on my coworkers a little more than usual.
    3. Competent and actually manages the team. I still have all the freedom I always have, but they are more proactive on scheduling (a huge PITA in my industry), along with other things to push our team forward. I’ve only had one in this group and it’s the current brand new manager. I was honestly a little skeptical of his more hands on approach at first but it ended up being good – We all still have our freedoms and responsibilities, but as a group, problems, issues, and ways to improve are caught earlier and it’s been good so far.

    But managing is definitely not quite typical in my industry, and very hands off. A lot of the manager stuff Alison talks about I have literally never experienced.

    1. Salad*

      That should say, without micromanaging it’s hard to mess it up in my industry, and those options are what I’ve seen in my industry….not universal by any means.

    2. Alianora*

      #2 describes my manager pretty well, at least when it comes to me. I’m an administrative assistant and the rest of the team, including my manager, are in a different role. She’s a first-time manager, but she also hasn’t worked in an admin role. She’s said a few things that are demoralizing because it feels like she doesn’t really value what I do, because she doesn’t understand what I do.

      I can count on her to let me know if she wants me to do something differently, and if I have questions I know I can come to her. But I have to forge my own path in terms of day-to-day tasks, projects, and personal development, and if I want feedback on how I’m doing, I need to look elsewhere. I’m pretty independent, so it isn’t the worst situation to be in with a first-time manager, but she’s definitely not the best I’ve ever had.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        My mom’s former manager was like this and had been for, like, five years. Drove her up a wall. It’s so bizarre to me that a manager wouldn’t even know what their employee was working on and what they did all day – I like a hands-off manager, but that’s a little too detached.

    3. Been There*

      My last manager was a first time manager and she was the BEST manager. I miss her so much. She was a godsend and taught me so much.

    4. The New Wanderer*

      Managing is fairly hands off in my industry and I think there is one additional category (from my experience with the Exemplar):
      4. Appears competent to upper management and is a competent individual contributor, but as a manager is hands-off, disinterested, lacks understanding of various skill sets held by the reports, and provides no feedback or support.

      That guy was a new manager when I reported to him and isn’t going anywhere because his manager (of whom he is a clone) loves him. Three years later, I’m informally mentoring someone who just started reporting to him, who has been assigned a workload 3x what it should be and my coworker hits a brick wall whenever this is brought up to manager, even by the team leads. Not everyone has that problem with him (I personally was very underloaded, others probably have manageably workloads), but it illustrates that this manager has no idea what workload should look like even when given feedback from multiple, experienced sources, and no interest in fixing a known problem.

      1. TechWorker*

        I had a #4 for a while and it was pretty grim. To be fair he did understand the work, but ‘hands off disinterested and provided little feedback and support’ is him to a ‘t’. To be fair, he has now moved to a non-management role, idk if that was his decision or the companies (or a bit of both).

  7. Anonymom*

    As someone who is new to managing, I’d really love to hear some good advice from some of the seasoned managers among the commentariat. What do you wish you’d known within the first year?

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      I can think of what some of my bad managers have done and advise you to not do those things.

      1. Know what your people do. If you assign task A to Alice, but it really is Betty’s job, it creates confusion. Are you going to be transferring some of Betty’s responsibilities to Alice?

      2. Make check-ins work. Have an agenda, discuss what needs to be discussed, get good feedback from your people.

      3. Admit that you are learning, and you will make mistakes. Even after you get good at things, you will still make mistakes.

      4. Don’t let your temper out.

      5. Be transparent. Don’t have a hidden agenda.

      6. Don’t micromanage. If you tell people they need to do something, trust that they are going to do it. Create an atmosphere of trust where they can come to you if they get stuck without getting their heads bitten off. (As a corollary, remember that your job is to manage their work, not do their work.)

      7. Treat everybody equally. You are naturally going to like some of your employees better than others, but don’t play favorites.

      8. Don’t over socialize with your employees too much. If you hear them planning a happy hour, don’t invite yourself. They need time away from you. (This is very much in line with “What Would Captain Picard Do?”)

      9. Look at the work getting done, rather than how much time you have butts in seats. Know that different people have different ways of getting things done.

      1. Juneybug*

        OMG, this is so perfect!! I think the only two suggestions I would add are –
        10. Don’t be afraid to make tough decisions, even if your staff will not like the decision. However, make sure you explain to them why that decision was made (leadership above you made the change, funding issues, workload change, etc.)
        Bonus: 11. Help your folks advance in their career. Ask what is their 6 month, 1 year, 3 year, etc., plan. Help them get the training or experience they need.

      2. EvilQueenRegina*

        If you assign Task A to Alice, make sure it’s actually feasible to do so as well – my ex manager once tried assigning Task A to Alice having very little idea of what her finance role actually involved, and in this particular case she couldn’t fit Task A in because she only worked 15 hours per week, had a lot of other finance tasks to do and Task A took more than that by itself. Unfortunately when Alice tried to explain this, Umbridge wouldn’t listen and started accusing her of slacking off. Long story short it got way out of hand and both of them actually ended up leaving.

    2. NW Mossy*

      Here’s what I’d suggest:

      * Tread carefully if you’re managing a team that does work you have expertise in. It’s a very common trap for new managers to drift back to doing individual contributor work because it’s easier to feel successful and purposeful in that zone. That ends up being bad for the team and you – they don’t get the opportunity to grow, you have less time to hone your managerial skills, and you give your upper leadership a false sense of what your team’s capacity really is.

      * Your communication style is a key part of your success, so really pay attention to how you relay messages to your team. Things like the mode (verbal, written, or subtext from your attitudes/behaviors), how often you repeat/reinforce, what you pass on vs. hold back, and such take on amplified importance when you are one of the most critical information sources for your staff.

      * Giving frequent feedback to your team (positive and negative) is a must. People crave knowing how they’re doing, so be clear on what your standards are and let people know how they’re doing relative to those standards. Your standards have to include both results (expectations for the work product) and behaviors (expectations for how they work with others). Many first-time leaders are slow to realize how important behaviors are and struggle to coach their teams effective on it, and it’s the biggest ball I dropped in my first year.

      1. Adam*

        A few things I wish I would’ve learned prior to becoming a manager:

        1.) You are often cheerleader, human shield and executioner for your team. There will be says you feel like you’re getting beaten up from both sides. Stay strong and always do what’s best for your team.

        2.). You NEED to be able to match the communication styles of your employees. You have to communicate how they want to be communicated to.

        3.) Understand out of the gate, you can’t please everyone. Not every situation will have a win win. Sometimes you’ll have to side with the company. Others, your people.

        4.) Communicate with your people. Often. I started managing in call centers, and had weekly sessions where we went over monitors. Make sure you sets aside time that isn’t tied to a coaching session for them. It’s important that they have time with you outside of formal training opportunities.

      2. Uranus Wars*

        Your first * is the hardest to resist!
        It’s so easy to jump in on things, especially brainstorming sessions, because you get the rush of doing something you enjoyed for so long and (at least I) have to consciously take myself down. When they ask for feedback or ideas I hear “can you roll up your pant legs and get into the weeds with us on this?”

        I have learned it comes across like you don’t trust them or your are trying to dictate direction when you are having fun revisiting the past. . I have to back up and give them what they need, but nothing more. And it’s HARD sometimes.

    3. Mrs. HR*

      I work in HR and my favorite part of the job is professional growth and development. My advice to new managers:

      1. Find out more about what your team does by checking in regularly. Your first few check-ins actually shouldn’t be about you advising them on how or what to do. Just listen. What are they working on? Are they running into any challenges / road blocks? This helps you to understand the inner-workings of your team members and their strengths, weaknesses, and scope of their role.

      2. Be honest about where you’re at. If they ask for advice, or for you to intervene, you can say “You know, I’m pretty new to managing this department, so I actually want your opinion. What do you think is the best solution?” And help them work it out with you.

      3. Be honest, in general. Don’t try to accomplish hidden goals, or go behind your team’s back. Caveat: This is almost always done with the best intention. It’s a common under-promise, over-deliver approach. But the resultant is that employees feel that you’re hiding something from them, so it’s better to be forthright.

      4. Be a sounding board and a confidant (unless it’s related to harassment/discrimination/etc. in which case you should clearly dictate complaint procedures). Employees want to be able to trust their manager to hear them, sometimes help them workout a solution / sometimes not, and to know that their grievances and gripes won’t go anywhere. Too often, new managers think every “b***h session” is a MY-BOSS-NEEDS-TO-HEAR-THIS scenario, and it ends up creating a muddled web. Sometimes, it’s enough to listen and say “I hear you, and I want you to come back to me if this ends up being a real problem. But if you’re good with things staying as is for now, I’ll trust your judgment.”

      5. Clarify. Make sure you clearly understand everything that comes across your desk.

      6. Don’t micromanage. Do you need to know what your team has on their plates, the projects their working on, status updates, etc.? Yes. Do you need live updates every hour (or even every day)? Well, no. Many, many, many employees and teams work autonomously, with the manager acting as a conduit and a figure-head. Once weekly check-ins and once or twice monthly team meetings is usually MORE than sufficient. Otherwise, just step in when you actually need to. (which won’t be as often as you think.)

      7. They are not your friends. I’ll say it again: THEY ARE NOT YOUR FRIENDS. Do not go on social outings, share too-personal details, or create anything beyond a manager-employee bond. Some managers can do this, but they are usually VERY experienced and they are the outlier, not the norm. I encourage first-time managers to have a warm, open relationship with their team to foster a positive work environment, but if it starts getting too chummy, you have to pull it back in. It’s a slippery slope; without realizing it, the power dynamics shift, or you’re favoring your “friends” over the others. Just don’t do it, even though it will be hard sometimes.

      8. Take it easy on yourself, and use EVERY opportunity to learn. I’m not sucking up to Alison by saying that I read Ask a Manager RELIGIOUSLY. I listen to the podcast. I use the search feature on this website when I have a particularly mind-boggling dilemma. This is a wealth of information, and there are plenty of free resources available to you. Read up and learn to lead.

      9. And most importantly: Be a leader, not a boss. You don’t get to be a good manager by stomping on everyone and proving that you are a “boss.” You become a good manager by gaining the respect of your team and your peers, and you do this by being a decent human being.

      Truly, it’s not rocket science. Be patient with yourself, be patient with your team, find your management style, and don’t be afraid to ask for help from your team or your boss when you need it. GOOD LUCK!!

      1. Mrs. HR*

        Oh! And listen to Alison’s podcast on Tone as a manager… It’s a great listen and I make ALL my first-time managers listen to it.

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        Once weekly check-ins and once or twice monthly team meetings is usually MORE than sufficient. Otherwise, just step in when you actually need to. (which won’t be as often as you think.)

        This is what my direct team does (well, we do a team meeting every two months or so) – it truly is the perfect amount of interaction. Anything more for my particular team would be overkill.

    4. Sara without an H*

      There’s a lot of good advice in this string. I’ll throw in some others:
      1. Your staff will always watch you more closely than you’ll ever watch them. Be very careful about nonverbal communication, throwaway remarks, and thinking out loud.
      2. If you can possibly find another, more senior manager who’s willing to mentor you, by all means do. Caution: this needs to be a person of spotless integrity, NOT someone who’s looking for an ally in their personal feuds. (Yes, there’s a story behind that.)
      3. One of the smartest HR people I’ve ever worked with advised me, “Don’t talk about their feelings. Talk about their behavior.” Everybody has feelings, which are their business, but their behavior at work is your business. (You may want to search the AAM archives for some posts about managers ignoring bullying and other bad behavior, which they excused as “personality conflicts.” Do not be that manager.)
      4. Set good work-life boundaries for yourself. You may be putting in some extra hours in the early stages of managing, but if you don’t set some hard limits on your work, you risk burning yourself out.
      5. Don’t take anything personally.

    5. MsMaryMary*

      This is all great advice!

      When I was a new manager, one of the best pieces of advice I got was to vent up. We all have bad days at work: we all have unreasonable clients, or get frustrated that IT’s servers seem to be powered by a hamster on a wheel, or want to strangle whoever microwaved fish in the office kitchen. Don’t vent to your direct reports. Vent to either your peers or those a level or two above you. You’re a manager. Your opinion on clients or corporate policy carries more weight.

      Somewhat related: find a peer in the same or similar position who is willing to be a sounding board. It’s great if you have a mentor, but it’s also great to have a partner who is in the trenches with you. Someone to bounce ideas off of, give you a gut check, to ask the “dumb” questions you might not want to ask a mentor.

    6. Probably Taking This Too Seriously*

      The best advice I ever got was thAt your team reflects you, so advocate for them, give them the credit they are due, and deal with concerns discreetly. Figure out what their strengths are and how to excite them about work and keep that in mind as you shape projects. That being said—my biggest new manager mistake was being afraid to hurt feelings. I learned that was unavoidable.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Everyone here has pure gold going on.

      I did not see but one thing that struck me is that people were actually listening to me. If you are used to seeing that people some times listen to you and then some times do not listen to you, then this will be a change.
      You won’t need to use a sledgehammer to drive your points home.

      The flip side of this coin is BECAUSE they are listening to you, they will do what you say. They will NOT do what you mean! This is an important distinction. At the end of the week, when you are dog-tired and barely spitting out sentences it’s easy to say XYZ in such a manner that it sounds like ABC which is totally different. So they end up doing ABC, because that is what you did say to do. And you needed them to do XYZ. Oh my.

      Take a minute to double check yourself for ambiguity, vagueness, etc. When I knew I was tired, I would pause for a second before answering a question or relaying an instruction. This helped me to make sure my explanations were clear. There were other times where I knew I would be prone to misunderstanding, not thoroughly answering etc. I deliberately pause to make sure I was concentrating on the immediate matter. You won’t catch yourself every single time, but if you start the habit of trying to prevent this pitfall you will stop some problems before they even start. Additionally, they will see that you are truly working at everything.

      I also went into the role with the assumption that they would repeat everything I said to someone, somewhere. I was not disappointed on this count. They repeated my words to each other, to the big bosses and to their families. Each time you speak assume your words will be repeated. Keeping this in mind will serve you very well.

    8. Reluctant Manager*

      One of my good bosses during a difficult time had a strategy: Separate the facts from the feelings. She took both seriously, but she would deal with them separately. If you went to her with something you had feelings about, she’d listen and talk it through. If you went to her with a problem that needed solving, she’d troubleshoot or give direction. But she didn’t mix up one for the other.

    9. SwingingAxeWolfie*

      You’re reading Ask a Manager which is a great start. After years spent reading this blog (sadly only after becoming a manager), it helped me to recognise what is and isn’t OK in managerial behaviour – because modelling on my then current boss wasn’t a good idea and he gave me some pretty terrible advice. That’s not “don’t listen to your boss”, but take a step back and evaluate objectively if you can.

      My main nugget of advice is that – while drawing on how you like to be managed is usually the only place you can really start – you will need to change things up as you realise that what worked for you doesn’t work for everyone. For example, I was thrown off by how many of my direct reports needed to know the bigger picture for everything we discussed – from small work projects to goings on in the organisation. Not an unreasonable thing to want, but I’m such a detail-oriented person that not having that information was never a necessity for me as a general rule. I now make sure I take time to explain the bigger picture context, even though it may not be relevant for what I’m asking them to do, or the employee is more like me and doesn’t really need or want it. Sounds like an obvious thing that I’m sure you already know, but just an example of something I could never have learned prior to managing in practice.

  8. MicroManagered*

    Ugh I just recently got promoted to my first management position and am phasing in over the next couple months. This fills me with dread.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Forewarned is forearmed. If you know where some of the common pitfalls are then you have the opportunity to work to avoid them. For example, learning how to deliver feedback, both good and bad. That’s one example of a pitfall. Plus we all know our own personal weaknesses, so we can find tools to work through them.

    2. pamplemousse*

      One way to think about it is to try to have the same standards for yourself that you have for your direct reports. If you’d just hired someone who’d never done the job before and they screwed something up two or three months in, would you throw up your hands and say “ugh, this person is useless, they’ll never be good at it?” Of course not. Think of yourself the same way — you’re doing a job you’ve never had before with a totally different skill set, of course there’s going to be a learning curve.

  9. TechWorker*

    I’ve been a manager for ~year and graduated ~6 years ago. I would hope (!) the people who report to me don’t find it uniformly terrible – but I am definitely still learning and definitely made some mistakes. I was reading this like ‘oh God I hope that’s not me’. I completely agree with Alison that it depends in great part on the next level up – dyou know how long that person has been in their role? My manager when I was promoted was also recently promoted & had only managed managers for a very short amount of time and I would say that was actively unhelpful.

    1. OP-Here*

      Alison has lots of advice here on how to be a good manager. In fact, I consulted this blog quite a bit when I was a Team Lead at a couple of places. What made me leery about this manager was how new they were. They were promoted less than two months ago. I did finally meet with the new manager and they were so green, but promising?

  10. Observer*

    OP, of course new managers are going to make mistakes. But, as Alison says, that doesn’t mean that they are going to be micromanagers or that you are going to need to do intensive managing up. On the other hand, having an experienced manager doesn’t mean that the manager won’t need that kind of managing (as your current situation shows) or that they won’t be a micro-manager.

    So, your best bet is to go to the interview. Remember, it’s a two way street. Listen to the questions you get asked, and ask some questions of your own.

    1. Mazzy*

      This is true. And I’d add, not all long term managers are stellar. Many just have good stage presence. I’m sure there’s a study on that where people with nicer hair or who are taller are perceived as better managers. Also people tend to like people who confirm their positive views of themselves. I’ve seen people talk about how great someone was even if they were average or gave out wrong information. We all have. It’s important to be cognizant of that if one is always viewing new managers in a poor light – are you also looking at older managers with rose tinted glasses?

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Adding, everyone makes mistakes. It’s how they handle those mistakes that is the real question.

  11. AndersonDarling*

    I’d consider how independent the role is. I’m also mid-career but, I’m in a position where I make a lot of independent decisions, manage my project timelines, and just reach out to my manager if there is something big that I can’t handle. I wouldn’t be worried about having a new manager because all they do is sign off on my PTO and resolve the once a year big conflict.
    But if I was in a roll that was fed work from a manager on a daily basis, then I would be hesitant.

    1. Washi*

      This is a good point- I now have the kind of job where I’m out in the field a lot and am not in constant contact with managers. It would suck to have a really bad one, but I’ve had mediocre managers without it really impacting my work.

      When I was an admin though, I had a mediocre-to-bad boss and it was the worst! We sat 10 feet away from each other and had to collaborate a lot, and I felt like I could never get a break. I did not last long in that job.

      1. CyaneaCapillata*

        While mine leaves me alone as I’m performing my day-to-day tasks, he then insists upon having sole power to make even the smallest and most urgent decisions, while becoming unreachable. While he wants me to help others with basic tasks, including learning how to open a computer or inputting time weekly, he then informs everyone of the incorrect information and is displeased I showed them otherwise information earlier.

        A few of us are hoping it’s new manager ego and not something truly malicious, but since this involved payroll, COVID-19 time off, and proper vacation dates, we have our doubts.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            OMG, yes. The worst manager I ever had thought she knew everything and was just insufferable whenever anyone tried to work independently (and lashed out when her employees were right).

  12. Mazzy*

    As a former first time manager, I will say, first off, don’t make it worse. Part of the issue with being a first time manager is that the people above and below you view you as a partial or interim or testing manager. Well, how are you supposed to advocate for change and your employees and push projects and make real changes when you’re not even considered a full fledged manager? One issue I had was people calling me “supervisor” or “coworker” or “senior worker” instead of “manager” and still following the old chains of command.

    Also it’s common for people to pigeon hole you into your old job even if you have moved passed it.

    I think it’s important to keep respect and if you have a problem, just call a PRIVATE meeting with them (yes I was called out in public for an error I made in the beginning. How did that help? And did they think other managers never made errors?). This can include “you’re not advocating for me.” It definitely can IMO. Vaguer points like that are still open for discussion, I think people think you can only call a meeting about specific things.

    1. MissBliss*

      Is there a difference between supervisor and manager? I use those interchangeably (though I use “boss” most often).

      1. MissBliss*

        I guess that should be “What is the difference between supervisor and manager?” Didn’t mean to imply you were wrong, Mazzy :)

        1. Mazzy*

          I think supervisors watch over the work and delegate stuff, but a manager also hires/fires and does reviews and raises. So to call a MGR a supervisor is like saying they’re a step down from what they actually are.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            This has been the way it worked at previous workplaces I’ve been in that had both roles, though most of my supervisors also completed performance reviews for direct reports. It was basically just adding another layer between management and individual contributors.

          2. MissBliss*

            Ah, I see! That makes sense, but I can also see why I wouldn’t have known there was a difference– I’ve never worked at an org where I wasn’t reporting directly to a director. If there had been some more layers in between, I could see that distinction having been more useful for me. Thanks!

          3. Show Me the Money*

            Not really. Team leads watch over workand delegate, but supervisors and managers hire/fire and do performance reviews, etc. The actual title may not mean much, depending on the organizational structure. Supervisor vs. manager is often a distinction without a difference. I wouldn’t get hung up on trivial perceived status matters.

            That said, I have not respected most of the managers, supervisors, or whatever you want to call them, in my long career. Especially in the public sector, I was so turned off by the boot-licking, big egos, and incompetence I experienced that I never wanted to join their ranks. The pay differential was small and not worth the hassle, and people are difficult. I never needed “managing”, and the support I could have used wasn’t forthcoming because it didn’t contribute to their glory.

      2. Uranus Wars*

        In my organization there definitely is – Director > Manager > Supervisor > Individual Contributor

        Supervisors are definitely there as a buffer between manager and individual contributor but the manager is the one that stands up for and is responsible for the teams performance. And when the shit storm starts the manager is the umbrella that protects both the supervisor and the IC.

    2. AnotherAnon*

      Agreed! One of my biggest obstacles in the beginning was that a number of my team members were not interested in being helpful. I was new to managing and to the agency, and they did not want to fill me in on the full scope of duties they were responsible for, how their positions have historically been managed, routine procedures, etc. and it made it a lot harder not just for me, but ultimately them. I didn’t want to come in and suddenly introduce radical change, but if I have little idea of what I’m working with it’s hard to maintain continuity. Certainly some of this was a failure on my own manager’s part, but he offices at an entirely different location and oversees multiple divisions, so he can really only provide me a general understanding, and everything else was reliant on my staff wanting to work together as a team.

      1. Show Me the Money*

        Why didn’t your manager fill you in on all of this? It wasn’t the team’s job to train you.

  13. CyaneaCapillata*

    I’ve got a first-time manager as well. While he does seem to be a pleasant person, Alison is correct – he hasn’t learned to handle the stressors of employee interpersonal issues, advocating properly for staff, and managing to use his authority in the manner opposite to what the situation requires. That said, as my mentor says, he becomes more amiable and open to other opinions once we staffers save him from his many blowups.

  14. Washi*

    My favorite manager of all time was a first time manager! There was a noticeable improvement after her first year but even then she was pretty fantastic. Over the years I’ve found that I have a certain “style” I respond well to – I like working for smart, no-nonsense people who value frankness, efficiency, and independence. (It’s definitely not for everyone – I don’t really care how “nice” my manager is as long as they behave professionally but some people need that relationship piece.) I look for that more than I look for tenure at this point.

    1. Senor Montoya*

      My favorite kind of manager is well. Trust me to be professional and competent, check in periodically, get me resources when I ask for them (or explain when you can’t; I don’t need the gory details, even just, “unfortunately, we don’t have the budget for it” or “I’ve looked into it and unfortunately our dept can’t move forward with that).

    2. allathian*

      Same here.
      I work for a first-time manager. She has been in her current position for 6 months and she’s great! Very professional, she advocates for us in the larger organization. She sets clear expectations, she’s friendly without trying to be a friend. But she’s not a micromanager at all. She used to be a peer and when she was promoted, I was a bit worried how the transition would go, but so far, it’s been really great. It’s obvious that she relishes the challenge, and while she’s occasionally been a bit unavailable because she’s gone back to school (a few days a month) to get management training, that doesn’t worry me because if there’s a true emergency, she can always be reached and if I just have a question about something, I know she’ll get back to me when she can.
      Things have gone uncommonly smoothly for the last few months, COVID and mandatory WFH notwithstanding, it’ll be interesting to see how she’ll handle the first conflicts, or if she’ll be able to head them off at the pass.
      I’m certainly much happier as her subordinate than with her predecessor, who was very warm and friendly, but cared too much about being liked. She had also been promoted from being a peer, and it was obvious that she found it difficult to step back from that and took offence when her subordinates didn’t want to hang out with her as much as we had done as peers. She also kept whining to her subordinates how hard it was to be a manager, not really something I wanted to hear (I had to bite my tongue more than once to avoid blurting out “Well, quit then if it’s so hard!”). That said, she was great about remembering birthdays and bought Christmas gifts for us with her own money (usually two movie tickets for each subordinate, and with 20 people on her team that added up), but that was all a part of wanting to be liked. I definitely prefer skipping the birthday celebrations if I can trust my boss to let me get on with my job without undue fuss! My organization uses 360 evaluations, and I’m not the only one who was unhappy with her performance. After her last evaluation, she took a week off sick due to the stress. But I guess that was the final straw, because she decided to look for employment elsewhere and not be a manager anymore. From what I hear, she’s much happier as a subject-matter specialist.

  15. LGC*

    I’m just curious – wouldn’t the fact that this new manager seems to have been promoted relatively quickly to a high position be a warning in and of itself? Or at least a source of caution? To me, it reads like LW is concerned that the person at the new job is going to be a bad manager…but I’m wondering more about the circumstances that lead to someone who’s five years out of college getting promoted above the position that LW is looking at.

    Obviously, there’s a bunch of things that can explain this – maybe LW’s jobs to date haven’t had as much room for advancement as normal, for example – but I’d look around at the company itself more before I’d speculate about whether the new guy/girl is going to be a bad manager.

    (Also: yeah, general answer is true. Honestly, people loved me when I first started out in my current position. At the same time, I was a disaster – like, I wasn’t at the “beer runs on lunch breaks with the team” point, but I was closer to that than anyone should have been.)

    1. spock*

      The OP also calls them a “recent graduate” when it sounds like they graduated almost 5 years ago, so hard to know what they mean by “rapidly promoted”. I don’t think being promoted to a manager in 4 years is too rapid. Some people go into management because they are interested in management, not because they were just so good as ICs that it was the only option to continue progressing.

      1. LGC*

        To be honest, I don’t think the promotion speed is out of line either for IT, but I kind of erred on the side of assuming LW was reliable.

        I did have that same thought, too – to be honest, the bigger question is if LW is able to work with the new manager! Mazzy pointed out a pretty big pitfall upthread – if LW goes into this thinking that the manager is a n00b and doesn’t know what she’s doing, then that’s…kind of setting up a failure in the relationship. (And yes, I committed AAM blasphemy by suggesting that the manager wasn’t all-powerful. But also, I think that if LW goes in thinking that the manager is going to fail, they’re going to look for reasons that the manager is failing.)

    2. MsMaryMary*

      If I were OP, this topic would be something I’d ask about at the interview. I was a manager within 5 years of graduating from college, but that was the culture of my organization. I was an “experienced” team member after I’d been there a year. We all worked crazy hours and learned a lot, fast. We worked with home grown software, so for junior to mid level management, a nuts and bolts understanding of the work the team was doing was important.

      OldJob also did a ton of internal training, including a multi-week class (one day a week for six or eight weeks, if I remember correctly) before you could be a manager. I also had stellar support from my managers at that job, both in terms of helping me advance and helping me do a good job when I was promoted.

  16. Oh the memories...*

    To the first person I managed – I’m so sorry. I hope you’re in a better place (with a better manager).

  17. Bear Necessities*

    It’s possible for newbie managers to be good, but it’s rare. My last manager was a newbie, and he was phenomenal — but my company has a strong management training pipeline, and my particular manager had a very good combination of traits, and our team was an easy one to manage. The stars aligned for a really good experience. But lose one of these traits — leave him unprepared for management, or make him less of a calm, thoughtful, deliberate person, or give him a team that would present more personal or professional challenges — and it could have been far worse, easily.

  18. Another tech worker*

    I’m currently working for a manager who is young and only started managing people about 9 months before I started. I actually think he’s one of the better managers I’ve had, despite the fact that many other managers I’ve had had been managing people for much longer. I personally think one of the things that matters most when it comes to being a good manager is really caring about being a good manager and being very thoughtful and intentional about how you go about it – and my manager does. So I wouldn’t discount all new managers right off the bat. That being said, I am still fairly junior (but experienced enough that I operate well under my manager’s relatively hands-off approach), and if I was as senior and had as much management experience as OP, I would be wary about having a brand new manager.

  19. gbca*

    The combination of being a new manager and being relatively inexperienced in general would give me serious pause. I took on my first management role at nearly 35, so I had a good amount of experience under my belt and had been interested in management for quite a while, so I was paying attention to management styles. I think I was a much better new manager than if I had started managing people at 27. Not to say younger managers are bad either, just the combination of youth and inexperience as a manager probably leads to more first-time manager fumbles.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      As someone thrust into leadership at the tender age of 25, I’d like to say that I too still watched management closely and was shaped by various executives along that short-way. I certainly was winging it in some ways but I wasn’t without some kind of guideline, I didn’t need to study them for 10 more years in order to get it down.

      It really depends on how you learn in the end. I still watch everyone’s style and can change as we go along. I think about management style as ever evolving and sharpening along the way. Like anything else, you can’t just pick one and stay stuck, you have to continue to always take notes and shift along the way.

      1. gbca*

        Sure, that’s fair. And there were a variety of reasons I didn’t get into management until the age I did (career switching, grad school, etc), it’s not like I needed 10+ years of observation to be a good manager. I’m just saying from a probability perspective, a young and rapidly promoted manager is less likely to be a great manager. But it’s entirely possible this person turns out to be great.

        I also should have included in my initial comment that OP should definitely be interviewing this person as much as they are being interviewed to see if it’s a person they think they could work with.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Yes, everyone should always be interviewing their manager during the interviewing stage. No matter how experienced the manager is

  20. Jean*

    Nobody starts out good at something they’re new to, but everyone has to start somewhere. The question is, are they able and willing to take on feedback and improve with experience? Go to the interview and do your best to get a feel for this person’s character. Do they have a good sense of humor? Do they seem humble, flexible, pleasant? Or do they seem rigid, quick to temper, bad at listening? Go with your gut if you get an offer. Best of luck!

  21. Literal Girl*

    I’m working for a first time manager who is great! There are a couple of reasons for this, but I would have to say that it really helps if the new manager has a boss who manages well and coaches their direct report to do the same.

    1. allathian*

      Agreed! It’s just that you have to be able to take the coaching. My ExBoss wasn’t very good and my current boss with 6 months under her belt is the best boss I’ve had in my current career (I switched 15 years ago) and I still have the same grandboss. The jobs I did before that were so different from my current one that the requirements of a good manager were also very different.

  22. CupcakeCounter*

    I’ve told a story here about a time I interviewed for an internal promotion and the hiring manager decided the best way to make the announcement that his lunch buddy got the job was to call the whole team plus all of the candidates into a conference room and 1) congratulate the guy that got the job and 2) go into great detail in front of everyone why each candidate didn’t get the role and 3) give “helpful career advice” to those rejected candidates.

    He was a first time manager and a horrific mansplainer. My (older male) boss called him out several times over that and a few other things. His favorite was commenting about FTM never seemed to respond to email or IM while working from home even though his status was available and having screenshots to back him up. FTM’s WFH privilege’s were revoked since boss was not the only person to have that problem.

  23. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I don’t fear first time managers much, in my experience they’ve all been easy to mold and train to best suit me personally. But this obviously isn’t universal of course. It depends on your own experience and personality.

    It sounds to me that you don’t want to put in the leg work and that’s completely and utterly understandable. So I understand the hesitation on that side. It’s also different for me because of the positions I hold, it’s going to be drastically different depending on the scale of operation and setup and how boss/employees are set up all over.

    It’s easier to fix something that’s new and not an ingrained habit though. A bad manager who’s been doing it that bad way for 27 years YIKES a bad manager who’s done it for 6 months, it’s a lot easier to speak up and them to notice the error of their ways and adjust.

    But if this is making you nervous, I’d take that seriously because it’s all about your comfort when it comes to your relationship that you’re building with your management.

    My outgoing boss is a first time manager. I have found it perfectly easy to navigate. Others in leadership…lol nah they hate his style. So…it’s so utterly personal.

    1. LadyByTheLake*

      I’m with this. The WORST managers I’ve had have all been long-time managers who were ingrained in their awfulness. On the other hand, most first time managers I’ve had, I’ve been able to say, “here’s what works best for me, can we do that” and it’s worked great.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      I can see there might be some upsides to a new manager. They may be much more collaborative or less micromanaging for example.
      For me it would also depend on how capable they are at their job aside from the managing and if you’re being hired to complement that. With the right manager thais can create a great duo.
      I guess all you can do is meet them at the interview!
      But I’d ask a lot of questions.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Totally agree with your first paragraph. FTM tend to go with what people tell them. They can quickly become reliant on someone because it is overwhelming initially.

      And I agree with TMBL, OP, I am hesitant to say go for it, because you are hesitant. You are saying you do not want to manage up. I’m one who doesn’t care either way about that, so I’d jump at the job. I don’t think that you will escape at least some managing up even under the best of circumstances.

      For your own peace of mind, I would plan that I was definitely going to have to manage-up on this job and then ask myself how I felt about the job knowing that. Then I would give myself a test scenario: Suppose I have been at the job for six months. I am doing some managing-up on a regular basis. Do I regret taking the job, given all the other good points about the job?

  24. Judge Crater*

    I’m guessing the sentiment is going to be anti working for a new manager, and that has a lot of merit.

    However I’d also look at the personality traits of the person were interviewing with. If they are intelligent, open to input and realistic about what they do and don’t know, you could be able to position yourself as a key adviser on how to structure and manage the team. This could be a role that brings you a lot of credibility in your new company. And as the company is already demonstrating it pays well, it might be a really good opportunity.

    Of course on the other hand you may meet this person and know in 15 minutes there is no way it’s going work!

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      If they are intelligent, open to input and realistic about what they do and don’t know, you could be able to position yourself as a key adviser on how to structure and manage the team.

      This is what I was able to do in my current role. My team’s name is one I came up with. I also came up with my job title and the specific function I perform within the company. If I had a manager with more experience and time at this company, I probably would not have gotten to do these things.

  25. Diahann Carroll*

    My manager must be a unicorn, then, because he’s AWESOME. And I don’t say that lightly – people who have followed me on this site (as Fortitude Jones) know I used to bitch a lot about past managers, even the ones I liked, lol. But I can’t even complain about my manager in an, “ugh, he just did this annoying thing today,” and maybe that’s because I’m remote full time so don’t have to deal with all day every day.

    He started off as my dotted line manager with no prior people management experience, and he’s now my direct manager. I don’t have to manage up with him at all – the dude has no ego involved in anything he does. He’s genuinely open to my opinions, and he genuinely sees me as the expert in my particular job function. If I feel strongly about changing a process or procedure I think is nonsense or overhauling some of our long-standing documentation that’s poorly written, my manager goes to bat for my ideas with the people above him – and I usually get my way.

    My manager doesn’t micromanage me – he occasionally assigns me something, but he leaves me to it and only asks for updates if he hasn’t heard from me in awhile. He also regularly reminds me that if I need him for anything, he’s always available for me to call. He sets clear targets for me and my teammate to meet, he regularly praises my work in public (and takes the blame for any mistakes I make), and he makes it a point to know everything about everything in our company so that if we have questions, he can answer them truthfully. I was very skeptical of his leadership when I first started (and, I hate to admit it, part of it may have also been because he’s younger than I am, and I’m still considered one of the youngsters at my company), but he quickly proved to be a transparent and fair individual. He doesn’t go overboard trying to be buddy buddy with his direct team of two, he doesn’t play favorites, but he’s also not standoffish. He’s professional with a good sense of humor, and his enthusiasm for what we do is contagious.

    Give the new manager the benefit of the doubt, OP. They may turn out to be the best manager you ever had – mine is.

  26. Rockin Takin*

    I wouldn’t write off this manager just based on being newer to the industry. I was moved to a supervisor role after 2 years in my industry (and in my mid 20s). I read books, asked for advice from a mentor, and tried very hard to be a good people manager. Overall I did have slip ups but I did at least as good a job as some of the supervisors that had decades of experience. And some of the long term supervisors were beyond terrible.
    I moved to a new company supervising a large team of folks who are mostly 20-30 years older than me, and it’s been very difficult. Everyone assumed I know nothing and treated me like a child when I first started. There was an assumption that I was 19 because I look young, and they all thought I was incompetent. It took over a year of constantly proving myself to finally get people to treat me with respect.
    Someone with less industry experience can still bring value to a role. Be cautious, but don’t write them off entirely.

  27. Charley*

    Completely anecdotal evidence, but due to a complete lack of ambition on my part to move up and manage, I’ve dealt with a few new managers over the past decade. Four out of five did/are doing really well. The other was a micromanaging rules-enthusiast. Four out of five ain’t bad though!

  28. Tess Not the Mess*

    For roughly the past year, I have had a first-time manager, promoted from a senior position on my team when the last manager left. I was a bit leery, as I did like my old manager–she was pretty good, but not great. Also, I didn’t really know, but didn’t have the sense that the new manager really wanted the position, but that maybe he was promoted up because he was most senior on the team (in fairness, I don’t know–this is just my feeling).

    He is doing a really good job. I’m not sure how much of it is due to his personality and approach, but I believe it is likely helped a great deal by company management training which takes place at our headquarters (out of state). I think the training is quarterly. It was a just a little bit bumpy at first, but he does a very good job of applying just about the right amount of support, pushing the team to do better, carrying us through various changes in systems we’re using and handling the different personalities on the team. Also, he has lately really jumped into us all now working from home, and he just requires us to send him a check-in email every morning (not sure what the other managers at the company are doing, but I’ve read the issues regarding micro-managers with those working from home).

    I have heard from fellow team members that our last manager was not-so-great when she first stepped into the role, but the company was not owned by the company that owns us now, so I don’t believe there was dedicated manager training.

    Short answer: new managers aren’t necessarily bad, and good training for them can be invaluable.

  29. Lorac*

    I recently started working closely with (not under) a first time manager, and it’s been a nightmare. He’s not a recent grad, but spent years working in a technical position before being promoted as a manager. It’s gotten even worse now that we’re all remote.

    I don’t even feel like I have the power to push back on how awful he’s been because we’re on completely unrelated teams. His thoughts are unclear, his emails even worse. He doesn’t tell his team what exactly they need to do. He’ll write an email with some meandering intro and background info and go on for paragraphs. Then the last sentence is this minor throwaway sounding suggestion with something like “It’s easier to mention a note…” that turns out the be the task he wants done.

    But obviously no one can pick up on that! If we were still in office, I’d walk to his desk and confront him directly. Now that we’re remote, I’m realizing he has AWFUL phone etiquette and IM/email abilities. He’ll call, but not leave a message so I’m left wondering if he misdialed me. He’ll sometimes IM me, but his IMs are just as unclear as his emails.

    I’m just baffled by how someone so terrible at communicating his thoughts became a manager!

  30. Some Lady*

    Interviewing is a two-way street, so I would recommend using the time to learn as much as you can about this person and what it would be like to work for them. I’d think of questions you can ask them about how they have handled various situations that would show insight into their skills and judgement as a potential manager. And I’d try to ask how they have handled past situations, not how they hypothetically would, as I wouldn’t be surprised if a person promoted quickly was good at answering things hypothetically, and this doesn’t always line up with what people actually do in the moment. The examples they give might not be completely analogous to managing if they haven’t done it much yet, but if you’re thoughtful about your questions you might still get some helpful information. You’ll probably have to do this with tact as the potential employee, and I wonder if Alison has any insight there on how to get this type of information in the interview process. If they’re totally defensive or unwilling to answer, then that’s information, too. Personally, I think if everything else is positive, it’s worth trying to find out more.

  31. DashDash*

    I’ll weigh in with a good experience with a first-time manager. The first-time manager I worked for ended up being pretty awesome. There were still some bumps, but at least equally because I was ~6 months into my first full-time job. Her approach was absolutely key:

    She took the job and its responsibilities seriously; she went to trainings, attended webinars, and read books. She was open to feedback, and I’d say generally followed the principle of “seek to understand before you seek to be understood.” I think attitude is pretty important for the role.

  32. M. from P.*

    Not sure if this has been mentioned up-thread but I’d be wondering why a first-time manager was overseeing a senior employee. I’d find it natural for an entry-level employee to be reporting to someone less experienced but it seems that the OP has more management experience (yes?) than their prospective boss.

    1. Me*

      Just because someone is a senior employee doesn’t mean they are or want to be management. It is not in anyway unusual to have managers with less experience than some or even all of their employees.

      1. M. from P.*

        The part that puzzles me is not that a senior contributor like the OP is not a manager.
        The part that puzzles me is that an inexperienced person has been promoted to managing senior contributors. I can see a senior contributor moving to management or a recent graduate managing interns or entry level employees but I wonder how much a brand new manager with little overall experience has to offer the OP.
        That said, I think a lot depends on the grand manager and how supportive they are of OP’s prospective boss.

        1. LGC*

          I kind of had the same question, but it could be that OP is making a lateral or downward move (OP mentions their own management experience in the letter), for starters.

          Also…perhaps this manager has a unique skillset or outlook? Some people are better managers even if they’re green. One of the things I’ve learned (and I’m an example of) is that individual contributor skills are largely independent of management skills.

          1. OP-Here*

            I made a mid-career switch awhile back from being a person manager to more of a manager of the stuff as I found that to be more enjoyable. And I recently switched to a different subject matter. Due to this switch, I’m looking at lateral moves until I feel I have enough experience in this new subject. Which leads me to situations like this where I find myself looking at roles where I would work for someone who is more junior with regards to experience but, is more senior than me in their knowledge of the subject.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          The person who tunes the pipe organ does not necessarily do the concert. It’s two different skill sets. And concert musicians can make way more money. But someone has to keep the pipe organ operational in order for the concert to happen.

          New boss may have a background in work flows and/or organizing work, the big picture stuff that the senior contributors do not have. Or it could be that none of the senior people wanted the additional responsibility of managing people. This happens often enough.

          1. Me*

            Exactly this and what I was trying to get at. Managing and doing are often different skill sets entirely. There’s not necessarily any correlation between a new manager and the seniority of the work they’re managing. In fact there’s even something to be said for a new manager managing people who are very self-sufficient and already proven employees. There’s a reason this person was hired. We can debate and question it all we want, but there’s no way to know if it’s a good or bad decision.

        3. OP-Here*

          That’s the same question that I had. Why would someone who’s inexperienced be promoted to managing senior roles? And why look for someone so senior for something that is probably a junior role?

          When I asked the people helping (combo of HR & leadership) overseeing the hiring, it sounded like they want someone very experienced who can jump right in with little oversight. I think this concept wasn’t conveyed well to the new manager and they had a different expectation. When I asked the new manager what the day-to-day would be and how they envisioned this role, from what they detailed it was evident that they didn’t know how they would shift from being an individual contributor to a manager. And they saw the person coming into the role helping them with the burden of being an individual contributor. Which reads in my mind as a more junior role? I expect mid-level or senior role being someone who takes on all the individual contributor duties and runs with it so the manager can focus on the higher level business line/operational management tasks.

          That had me thinking that the new manager could be promising as they learn how to manage, but it may take awhile. And raises a concern about how will the grand manager train the new manager to be a “manager”. Where I’m at, this doesn’t make the job seem like a good fit for me, but the money. So, I’m still in the running.

    2. CyaneaCapillata*

      This was a disaster in our company when the first-time manager “Bob” replaced old-timer “Steve,” then managed to mess up the entire department. After months of burnout combined with both Bob and Steve unable to back down from the smallest arguments, Steve transferred out and has been happy ever since. Bob unfortunately remains incompetent.

  33. Pam*

    I’m in higher ed- student advising. I want my manager to trust that I know what I’m doing, support me and my team in doing our jobs, and advocate for us and the students at higher levels.

    The occasional box of doughnuts is nice too.

  34. Ali G*

    When I left my first full-fledged managerial position some of my staff cried. One (who is over 20 years older than I am) said I was the best manager he’d ever had.
    I was a good manager (and still am). I was lucky that my first 2 managers in my career were awesome. I also worked with people that were not awesome. I modeled the good experiences I had and avoided duplicating the bad.
    OP will you be meeting with anyone that the Manager would have worked for? You could glean how effective he could be based on his experience with his manager or former managers in the company.

  35. Buttons*

    In that 5 years that might have been identified as a high-potential future leader and might have been giving managerial training and mentoring along the way.
    One of my programs is that very thing. We identified future leaders- people who we expect to be ready to lead in the next 2-5 years. During that time they have a cultivated learning program they go through, to make sure once they are a manager they already know how to manage people. As opposed to a lot of places the person learns on the job or takes a management class after. We have greater success with our first-time managers, and they continually score much higher in our engagement surveys than the managers who were managers before I started these programs.

  36. Roja*

    I’ve worked for good first-time managers and bad experienced managers. It’s up to the manager. You’re being offered a huge pay raise in a pandemic… sounds like it’s probably worth accepting the job.

    1. cmcinnyc*

      Yeah, I’ve worked for several first-time managers. I was cracking up at Alison’s run down of all the many ways a person can be a bad manager–or a wildly fluctuating array of ways–because it’s very true. But! Some of those people settled in to become *excellent* managers. And some did not.

      For balance, I’ve worked with really good experienced managers and managers who baffle me with how bad they are at managing *still!*, after years of experience!

      Take the job.

  37. Me*

    My experience has always been with “experienced” managers who are varying shades of awful. How may letters here are about bad bosses who aren’t first timers?

    I would never turn down a position because a manager was a first timer.

  38. Various Corn*

    1. Meet the potential new manager and see how well you get along with them.

    2. Iff you bond with the new manager, find out what his career plans are. If he’s got realistic long term career plans, you may want to consider working for him.

    Most people seem very negative about new managers (and I understand that), but occasionally it’s an opportunity for you to team up with a rising star, which can be good for *your* career.

    It’s completely a judgement call on your part.

    1. Prosaic*

      I gotta agree with this. There are some incredibly capable people out there whose limited experience on paper belies their actual competence.

      I would also hope that, internally, a company promotes an employee to a manager role because enough people believe that they are up to task, rather than just throwing them into the deep end with no training whatsoever.

  39. voluptuousfire*

    I had a first time manager at a role a few years ago and it was definitely a cluster. Looking back, I do feel compassion for her because she was made “manager” by being the first hire of the team and was thrown into it. She was already in over her head as it was, so having to supervise my day to day didn’t help at all. She essentially hid and I essentially trained myself. Trying to get her for anything was almost impossible and I can’t say I ever received any real feedback on my performance in that role from my manager or director. My manager was big on communicating anything negative about my performance by inferring with her tone of voice. You could practically hear the … as she trailed off.

    Ironically I was let go for “lack of improvement” by not hitting KPIs I didn’t even know I had. :)

  40. HR- Occam's Razor*

    I finally have a good label for my early managment style.
    Mini-Tyrant! This was years ago when I was part of operations in AK commercial fisheries, mini-tyranny was the norm.
    Doesn’t work so well now.

  41. Ethan "Zonker" Harris*

    I currently have a job where I am the training wheels for managers. Basically I’m a department of one, and so I’ve always reported to a manager whose job G&O’s have been vastly different from mine. In the past 11 years I have had 14 managers – every year my review has at minimum two inputs – person who managed me at beginning of year and the current manager. Only one of them was a micromanager, but luckily it only lasted for 7 months.

    It helps that all of my managers have worked with me before they became my manager – so they knew who I was, what (generally) I did (what, not how) and what I contributed to the overall company. The best managers scheduled monthly one-on-ones, looked for ways for me to explore skills/areas of interest within the company, and made sure I wasn’t over-extending myself. They made sure I felt included and my viewpoint considered.

  42. NW Mossy*

    I’m in a related quandary, since I’m reporting to a first-time manager of managers. He was previously my peer and is absolutely a fast-track guy – he went from individual contributor to manager in 3 years, and manager to director in 2 1/2. He’s got a lot of excellent qualities and I think he’ll eventually grow into the job.

    That said, the contrast between him and my former director (10+ years at that level) is really stark. He’s not actively making bad decisions, but he’s clearly not getting much guidance from his boss, who got promoted and then pulled him behind her to fill the vacancy she left. I’m watching him fall into some of the classic traps – not setting clear priorities, hoarding work that should be delegated, and just generally assuming that as long as nothing’s on fire, his managers don’t need any managing.

    It’s tough not to see it as a real setback for my own career, because my former boss really cared about me moving up and put a lot of effort into helping me with that. New Boss doesn’t have the time or skills for that yet, and it’s a bummer.

  43. MissouriGirlinLouisiana*

    I went to work for a person who was not necessarily a first-time manager but was promoted quickly from an intern to a senior member of the executive team within 8 years. That person was a nightmare of epic proportions. He didn’t know how my job was done, although he was convinced he was (I had infinitely more experience than he did), insist I could do multiple things even though I asked for software to help and it was honestly way too much for one person even though I had the experience, he would micromanage my work (oh…you made a mistake on this report-one that is easily remedied), he wrote me up (as a professional I was appalled and angered), and basically fired me without cause or reason. Ironically, he changed companies and a friend of mine ended up working for him-and experienced the same nightmare. And, again, this person is making big bucks in his position and he is basically incompetent. Of course, in my industry, he was lauded for 40 under 40 blah, blah but is an awful person. I hope to never see him again (I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be that way, but sheesh, there are so many managers that just don’t get it).

    Having said this, I think it’s a matter of personality, their awareness that they are new and want to be a good manager, their support above them, and the culture of the company. I’ve been a new manager myself and remember how I was treated. I made sure to be as fair and firm a manager that I could be and I have former employees who are still loyal to me (I know that’s weird but they do not undermine their current bosses, of course), but I help them with professional issues and one of them I basically mentor (informally).

  44. anna green*

    Oh gosh. I have worked at 4 different companies in my career with 4 different managers. Every. single. one. has been a first time manager. It sucks so much. I have been frustrated by all of these things at different times, and it just feels so unfair.

  45. voyager1*


    But the best manager I have ever had was a first time manager. The three worst, two were first time managers. The other had 20 years experience.

    I think it really comes down to: does the manager want to be a good manager or are they of the thought that people can just leave if they are not happy. The very worst manager I have had could not hold employees accountable for not doing their work or being a team player. She also played favorites and only valued people based on what she thought their technical skills were. She was also very defensive, emotional to at times at hysterical and was insecure. It would really bother her if a employee she didn’t think high of knew something she didn’t. Ironically she was a nice person in non-work situations. I personally thought she needed a role where she could be a SME instead of in management, but only went into management because that is where the money is. Those kinds of people do serious damage in the corporate world.

  46. Potatoes gonna potate*

    When I was first at my job, my boss was also new to the position and we clashed a few times. Eventually the longer I worked under him, we learned to work well with each other, we both improved and I was eventually promoted to being 1 level below him. I guess I was managing up? I made it clear years earlier that I eventually wanted to be manager, so it was a gradual movement from senior to supervisor to manager (not all seniors move up to mgmt). When I did become manager, I remember I asked a LOT over here what makes a good manager, so there are good resources here. The good thing about bad bosses is that they show you what *not* to do but sometimes knowing *what* to do is a bit of a learning curve.

    1. Potatoes gonna potate*

      so in a nutshell, I’d say the great manager I had was young and I like to think we grew together. But the one who had 10-15 years of experience? manipulative, sneaky, and a micromanager. ready to tear you down at any minute.

  47. Chaordic One*

    When I worked under a first-time manager it was a nightmare. The manager seemed to be frightened to advocate for her team members and unwilling to admit that there were any problems to her supervisors. Problems in her department were left unaddressed and they just kind of festered creating resentment. At the time I didn’t know how to bring it up with her and probably was not direct enough in my dealings with her. I was very tempted to go over her head to her supervisor, but I didn’t. That said, her supervisors didn’t really do a very good job of supporting her or providing her with the tools she needed to do her job and I think they were kind of preoccupied with their own jobs and a bit lazy themselves.

    After several months there was a departmental reorganization and she was removed from her management position to a newly-created lower-level position that was still a step above from her position before she was promoted to management. Don’t know if she had to take a pay cut. The irony of the situation was that it was in the admissions department of a school that makes a big deal about teaching “leadership skills” and the manager and her supervisors had all taken courses through the school.

  48. coffee cup*

    So about half-way into my current job (a few years) my peer and best work friend became my manager. She was promoted, so she was brand new to the job AND my friend. It was difficult because she was very much finding her feet and trying to be uber-professional and do everything by the book – rightly so! It took at least a year, maybe more, for us to finally talk about how much we missed each other as friends, and for me to assure her she could be more easygoing and less uptight and I wouldn’t respect her any less. I know she was trying to assert her authority in the first year and I get why. It must be really tough! I think I’m glad I had been there a few years, though, so I was able to work past her learning and do my job while being aware that (hopefully) she’d improve and things would ease off. And they have, largely.

  49. Lora*

    I’m going to disagree slightly – one of the ways to be a decent manager is by getting training in management, NOT by making unfortunate souls be your training wheels. Sadly many MANY companies provide zero management skills training or even the basic “please don’t do these illegal things now that you’re a manager” training.

    The worst managers I’ve had were the ones who refused any and all management training. They didn’t read books on management. They attended no classes or seminars, even free or company-paid ones. They occasionally even refused to go to training HR assigned them as a condition of continuing in a management role and somehow weren’t disciplined or demoted.

    One of the questions to ask the company might be what sort of management training they offer. If it’s pretty thin, they don’t have time/budget for that, they expect managers to go by instinct or learn as they go… I would say hard pass. A LOT of management is neither instinctive not intuitive and people screw up badly with no training. And the soft skills aren’t necessarily covered in business school – I’ve heard a lot of managers claim they learned management in MBA school. They did not, and were occasionally fired with extreme prejudice after getting the company in sticky legal situations… I would definitely ask about their management training offerings.

  50. Flabbernabbit*

    I live a version of this, by choice. I’m an experienced manager and decided to step back when looking for a new job to get closer to my expertise instead of managing people. The company I work with now is obviously aware of my background and sees the value of my experience. I like my current job, but yes, it’s hard to report to someone with so much less experience than me. So yes, I manage up, but that’s okay. My way is to respectfully offer my thoughts if asked, or if I see a situation the manager doesn’t, to identify a potential issue, with options for the manager to consider. This with a view that I may not have a full picture in my role. Then with the information in the managers hands, I don’t get invested in the way I would have done it. I support the decision that does get made.

    There are some bright people out there who are not managerial yet but can be. It takes good communication skills to navigate a role like that. Plus not sweating the mistakes. Just okay, here we are, let’s go from here. One tip. Even if you’ve had to complain up the line about a truly incompetent manager, never grouse outside of that line. Get on with your job or look for something else.

  51. Philly Redhead*

    I’m currently working for a first-time manager, and he’s great. I think the reason for that is that our company has a great management training program. So, maybe ask your potential employer what kind of learning opportunities they offer their employees?

    1. Managed by New Manager*

      My new-to-managing manager is also awesome, and we don’t have a formal training program. I think if you meet/Skype the manager you can get a good sense of whether or not you’ll work well together. Having a manager who is helpful and reasonable is critical; anything beyond that improves your work environment but doesn’t make or break it. To Allison’s point, my manager is managed by a very experienced manager and I do think that has helped, but he is also is open to feedback. If the way he’s managing me isn’t as effective for my working style, I *very* delicately push back. I think a huge difference with experienced managers is that they understand that everyone needs to be managed slightly differently depending on workstyle/skills. If your manager is receptive to occasional feedback, you can get the manager you want and help them learn to manage. In that way, it can be a big positive.

  52. somebody blonde*

    While I think it’s a negative, I don’t think it’s a strong enough one to stop the interview process. Just make sure you have a thorough interview with the manager before you decide. My current manager had never had reports before she got promoted over me, but she’s the best manager I’ve ever had. I think ultimately, you should ask some key questions like “What kind of support and training have you gotten as a new manager?” “How many reports do you have?” “How do you see your role as a manager?” The trait I’d most be happy to see in an interview with a new manager is humility. My manager is great because she’s always open to the idea that my ideas could be better than hers. Someone who’s willing to admit mistakes and find a way to make them up to you may not be the best manager initially, but they can grow into it.

    1. OP-Here*

      I virtually met with the new manager after submitting my letter and they couldn’t quite explain how they seem themselves as a manager nor clearly define the line between their role and mine. I chalked that up to lack of managerial experience. I liked their energy and how knowledgeable they were with the subject area, so I decided to stay in consideration for the role. Someone who works at their first job out of university and quickly moves up from an intern, to a junior role, to a senior contributor role and then to management in less than five years is definitely driven and passionate. Which is energy I vibe with, but it could also be the Peter principle at work. Then it would mean having a tough time with someone who doesn’t know how to leave their individual contributor role behind. The company is still interviewing people, so who knows I might not even get the job. At least with this negative aspect of the job, I won’t be so heart broken not to get it.

  53. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    I’m not sure you can make a decision until you meet with this person. And even then, they may tell you what you want to hear and act the complete opposite of what how they told you they would handle things (I’ve been there). But there are too many factors to consider that we don’t know. I would suggest thinking of the worst possible scenario for this new job, and decide whether the extra income is worth dealing with it all. Generally I’d advise against switching jobs solely for a huge pay bump, but if your current job is very unstable, and you’re not completely happy, it may be worth the jump temporarily until you find something that both pays well and that you enjoy.

  54. Anonya*

    Proceed with caution, but don’t rule it out. Does this person care about being a good manager? Does he/she seem generally competent, thoughtful and measured? Those basic personality traits count for a lot.

    And oh my gosh, this whole letter is giving me flashbacks of anxiety. I’m in my third year of being a manager in my org. The first 18 months were easily some of the most difficult of my career. I felt like I was flailing, and it was such a hard transition for many reasons. But! I got better, and I cared about getting better. My team’s retention rate is good, even though most of the people I manage have been managers themselves at one point or another. When I expressed my doubts, in secret to a trusted colleague, she said she never would’ve guessed that I felt rattled by my new role. That said, I still miss certain things about being an individual contributor and would not be opposed to giving up my management role someday.

  55. Junior Assistant Peon*

    A company I used to work for would assign a seasoned lab technician to be a young PhD scientist’s first direct report. The idea was that they would learn from each other, and the arrangement worked out well most of the time. New PhD’s in my field usually had no work experience aside from high school and college summer jobs (internships weren’t a thing yet back then), so you’d have people in their late twenties who needed to be brought up to speed on office/professional norms just like a new college grad would.

  56. AutolycusinExile*

    Someone mentioned this in a reply earlier but it was my first instinct and I think it’s worth reiterating. It sounds like your choices are stay and manage up in a position where you might get laid off, or leave, get a pay raise, and possibly manage up. Unless I missed something in the reading of it, you’re already unhappy and the worst that would realistically happen is that things would stay the same but you’d be getting paid more – does that match your impression of things? I’d say it sounds like it’s worth talking more with the hiring manager, at least. Ask about their preferred management styles, how closely they envision the role working with management, etc, and make your decision based on that. Give them a chance to prove that they’ve gotten some management training or to throw up some red flags before you make your final decision. If it means a pay raise and job security in exchange for no improvement on the management front, well… there’s a chance it might be worth it.

  57. Super Anon*

    One of the things I would be interested in knowing is how much support and/or training the organization gives a new manager. That might tell you if the first year or so might be rocky, but that person will settle in or if it’s more likely to be a mess.

    Where I work they promote people and give them zero support, so it often takes people years to find they groove, and that is only if they don’t leave first. But, I’ve worked for other organizations that provide a lot of support and training, and the results have been different.

    1. Emilitron*

      Related to that, how much oversight will this manager have? If this is their first time managing anybody and the team they’re managing is small, you might expect to see a strong organizational structure around the team. What are the norms that other teams’ managers have set, how much oversight does the next level of management give to the team managers, how interconnected are individual contributors to the higher rungs of management? Definitely worth interviewing to see how the whole organization fits together, and how much of a plan they seem to have to steering new managers in the right direction (training, as others have said, but also day-to-day support structure)

  58. Olivia*

    While I agree that a new manager might have some pitfalls, one thing of concern in the OP’s post is the phrase “recent graduate.” If the concern was the person was a new manager, they could have omitted the fact the new manager is a recent grad. Since the OP included it, it makes me think they may have more of an issue with the fact the manager is young, not just new. Young people can’t make themselves any older or more experienced overnight; they all have to start somewhere.

    As someone who is in a managerial role as a recent graduate (graduated 2 years ago), I would caution the OP on judgement based on lack of experience and give the manager a chance. There are plenty of highly-experienced managers who are absolutely ineffective managers; someone’s years in the business doesn’t necessary guarantee they’re qualified.

    Just because someone doesn’t have corporate managerial experience, doesn’t mean they lack all managerial experience. Maybe this recent grad was president of several clubs in college, or maybe the organize community volunteer events on weekends. Maybe they were rapidly promoted because they are qualified!

  59. Public Sector Manager*

    I’ve been a manager now for 10 years and my first 12-14 months I was absolutely terrible! I always had the best of intentions, but fell down when it came to execution. Also, learning when to let something go was a challenge. Plus, the line between giving your employees their own voice, maintaining quality and standards, and micromanaging is not necessarily clear when you are managing for the first time.

    I look back now at some decisions I made then and I am mortified that I did what I did.

    For the OP, if the job is otherwise what you want and the only red flag is a new manager, then I wouldn’t walk away from the job per se, I’d just have some understanding with your new manager should you take it, and there is always the risk that today’s bad manager is tomorrow’s bad manager.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I think it will depend on the rapport you sense during the interview. I’d be asking some pretty pointed questions. It is possible the person is bright and knowledgeable in their role and it could be a good opportunity.

  60. Blinded By the Gaslight*

    Word of Advice to New Managers: if you’re a new manager, and YOUR manager isn’t supportive of you, if you “manage up” but your manager never listens, if your manager never supports you in tough situations/decisions OR if they undermine or gaslight you (particularly with troublesome staff you may manage), if you find yourself beginning to document conversations because you feel like reality/truth changes depending on who you talk to in your organization, GET OUT. Seriously, just get the hell out of there, and find a new job.

    If you’re a new manager in a troubled, broken, or dysfunctional department or organization, and no one helps you, GET OUT. If you’re excited to land that management job you’ve been after, and you feel so proud and confident, and then, three, six, nine months later, find yourself questioning your worth as an employee/manager/human being, GET OUT. I definitely made mistakes in my first management job (and readily owned up to them!), but the biggest mistake I made was not valuing MYSELF enough to get out of a completely garbage situation that I was never, ever going to be able to make better. I used to read Ask A Manager for validation that I was making sound decisions because I couldn’t rely on my manager or HR.

    Value yourself. Take care of yourself. Learn. Ask for support. Communicate. Do your best. Read Ask A Manager. And if you constantly feel like a punching bag, GET OUT.

    1. Chaordic One*

      You have a brilliant user name. Good advice, too! I’m glad you mentioned “managing up.” This would be a good topic to discuss in the future.

      1. Blinded By the Gaslight*

        I learned that you can’t “manage up” to a manager to is unable or uninterested in “managing down,” or who wants to tell you ALL ABOUT your faults, but can’t admit to their own management weaknesses or failures. It’s impossible, and in my case, the situation became completely toxic. I’m still coping with PTSD from that environment even though I work for someone really great now. Hence, my username. :)

  61. MissDisplaced*

    I’d be very, very wary. Especially as you’ve mentioned you’re already in a situation with a checked-out manager and feel like you’re pressed to take on a lot of their role without the title and pay.

    I’m a bit curious how a recent graduate could’ve been fast-tracked so quickly up the management chain? But you seem to have much more experience than this manager? That would give me serious pause. But you’ll never know until you meet them. Who knows, perhaps they’re a genius rockstar or something.

  62. Angelinha*

    When I was a first-time manager, our HR director told one of my new hires that because I was a first-time manager, it might be a rough onboarding. It felt extremely undermining and not at all useful!

  63. tomorrowland*

    I have seen a few comments regarding concern that the first time manager had been fast-tracked and potential difficulties of having a manager with less experience than you. I think it is important to realize that a lot of people have absolutely zero interest in management roles. The OP also did not state in their letter that they wanted to be in a management position, so I’m going to assume there is a reason why they aren’t in one (granted, there might not have been a lot of upwards mobility at their current job.) I manage a team of 20 people and a few of them have been in the industry for much longer than me. My more senior employees have absolutely no interest in taking on the responsibility that comes with management. Some people like coming into work, doing their job and going home.

  64. Reluctant Manager*

    As a new manager, I really struggled hard with when to give direction. What helped me become a better manager was having a better staff! It helped me understand what was reasonable, where someone might want help, and why it might be gratifying to do it well. Having one really good hire made me realize that a couple of the people I had to manage were objectively difficult and resistant to accountability. Having good bosses myself helped, both to give direction to me and as role models.

    I was my very first boss’s first direct report, and I realized later on how good she was–she told me what she wanted, gave me enough information to do the job and enough leeway to learn and think it through, and had my back when someone was very insulting (and wrong!). She just seemed to be natural at it.

  65. Cabbagepants*

    I’m currently working for a new manager. In the past 6 months he’s gone from “so bad that omg I want to slap the **** out of him every time he opens his mouth” to “we can coexist comfortably and I can use his help on select tasks.” It’s an improvement but I’m still not sure if he’s trending to ever land in “good boss” territory.

  66. Megan*

    I have worked for three first-time managers and two were not great- nice, but imcompetant, one was horrible. One was just imcompetent and kind of lazy and just lacked overall leadership, but was easy to work with. The other one was incredibly micromanaging, rude, condescending, abusive, and overall a terrible leader. I left the 2nd one after less than a year under her for a new job (with the second one who seemed great at the time._ The 3rd one I quit without a job lined up because the abuse was intolerable and making me physically ill on a regular basis. If the person seems like they’ll let you do your thing and contribute and is generally a good leader, you might be fine, but I would watch for red flags when you meet with the potential manager. Personally, I wouldn’t want to risk it, but it might be worth it for the money if the person is nice and lets you do your own thing.

  67. Strawberry Secrets*

    In my job we had a very fresh manager get appointed after she received her PhD. The first year was kind of a rough adjustment but we are now 3 years in and she’s really blossomed into a wonderful manager. Being cautious isn’t bad but you can’t always know how it will go without knowing the person or seeing how they manage and grow. Hoping for the best though!

  68. Who Plays Backgammon?*

    My last manager was in a client facing role for over 20 years, then their boss retired so Last Manager applied for the job & was promoted. LM hired me from another team less than 6 months later, and if I had known was I was getting into! I worked for LM for several miserable years before they moved on to another position. I wish I had a hundred bucks for every time I wondered who in all sanity thought LM was qualified to manage people. I never saw such blatant favoritism in my working life. Turnover was huge–on a team that had had hardly any under the retired grandboss. LM would give instructions, I’d carry them out, then LM would question why I had done that. I was supposed to be my group leader, but LM undermined me with my group and changed my responsibilities so that in essence I was just another group member. LM was verbally abusive, and speaking up for myself only made it worse.

    I have a halfway decent boss now, but the job I’d hoped for is lost unless I relocate to another team (not too feasible, but maybe possible). LM really sabotaged my chances.

    Not saying all new managers are bad, but management has to be learned like other job skills, and I’d hate to be a guinea pig again.

  69. nerfherder*

    Can confirm this advice. My satisfaction in my current job went from “pretty high” to “god I really hate this gig” when they hired a brand new manager to sit over my team.

    She’s a very nice person! She cares, and she tries hard. It could be worse, it’s not like she’s actively malicious or anything. But I really wish she could have cut her teeth on a couple of interns, at least, before landing the My Boss gig. She doesn’t know what she’s doing, and the absence of a capable manager sucks so much of the joy out of the work.

    Who knows, she could be amazing in a year or two. However, I’m not a spring chicken, I’m a professional who has been around a while, and I wasn’t really open to being someone’s guinea pig at this point in my career. But my organization decided management experience wasn’t relevant for this management position sitting over experienced people, and here we are.

    Anyway. Given how coronavirus has ravaged the economy, I may be stuck waiting it out. But I would not recommend it if you have a choice.

  70. Beth Jacobs*

    I do agree with Allison but it’s also just one piece of information. Sounds like the OP is still in early stages of the recruitment process. I think OP should ask a lot of questions about the potential manager’s role, expectations and self-professed management style. How closely you’ll actually be working with your manager is a huge factor – some positions require a lot less interaction than others. Once OP has a clearer picture, they’ll be better equipped to make a decision.

  71. KayDay*

    I actually tend to disagree with this. Full disclosure: I don’t have much experience working for new managers, so maybe if I did I would feel differently. But my worst managers have all been experienced managers. I have also had good experienced managers. My best manager had limited management experience (not sure if they were brand new to management or had a little bit of experience.) From my experience, the single most important factor in whether some one is a good manager or not is if they give a crap about managing and their reports. My first (medium-experience level) manager told me after we’re promoted to a senior advisor position that basically they liked the new job because they could focus on what matters and not have to deal with admin and people management. on the other hand, the new manager cared and was always trying to be a good manager. A new manager who cares and wants to improve would certainly be better than an experienced manager who doesn’t think about managing that much.

  72. rudster*

    LW2 – While I appreciate the absurdity and overreach of many applications of AB5, including to my own profession) the only real workaround at this time is to incorporate and bill your freelance clients through your corporation.

  73. EvilQueenRegina*

    A lot can depend on the manager, in my time I have had three first time managers – the best way I can probably express this is using a Harry Potter analogy.

    Manager #1 was “Cornelius Fudge” – her management style reminded me very much of the way he responded to Voldemort’s return. This manager had the same trick of burying her head in the sand and not seeing what she didn’t want to see – she’d jump to her own conclusions about what was really going on and not investigate things properly, and then would be surprised that there was actually more to the situation than she thought and her original conclusions were wrong. Example: genuine concerns about an employee’s performance issues not investigated because she thought the person who told her was trying to get herself out of trouble for something else by diverting her attention and didn’t like that employee anyway, and it wasn’t until Performance Issues Employee went on sick leave and that task was no longer a problem that she realised there really was something more to it.

    In fairness, it was a structure that just didn’t work – she managed too many employees and wasn’t based in the same building as any of them, but she didn’t make enough effort to get a sense of what we actually did. If pushed, I would have to say the problems were a combination of her management style and the structure.

    A restructure led me to Manager #2: Dolores Umbridge. Umbridge had been managed by Fudge herself and had seen a lot of the same problems. It also eventually turned out that because Fudge had no real sense of what we did (we provided support to a children’s safguarding social care service) she authorised layoffs that cut too deep and led to an unsafe level of service. By the end of the year, the service was restructured again hiring more people, and Fudge was out.

    Umbridge had seen this, and was so determined to avoid making Fudge’s mistakes that she went too far in the opposite direction, not understanding that itself could be a mistake, and became a horrible disciplinarian micromanager (hence the name – I always felt like I was in Professor Umbridge’s class when I worked for her.) Many people didn’t stick out the year working for her (hence Defence Against the Dark Arts job). She would shut it down every time I tried to set a training goal for myself, and made a big point of telling me I was never going to be at the next level up (grandboss and another manager were willing to give me a chance at promotion, but I ended up still working under Umbridge as at this time most of her team had resigned at once and she needed the staff). Eventually someone reported her for bullying and she resigned.

    Manager #3 – Remus Lupin. Willing to listen, encourages her staff to learn and develop without shutting it down, wouldn’t assume a minor mistake means I can’t do Task X properly, if an idea isn’t feasible will explain the reasons why in such a way that my head is still attached to the rest of me and I feel more comfortable about clarifying if we’ve crossed wires.

    I could seriously write a book on this.

  74. Hydrangea McDuff*

    Context matters so much. I’ve had two first-time managers in my career—at the very beginning when I was in my mid 20s, and my current manager. The context surrounding them matters so much! As did my own confidence as an employee.

    Interestingly in both cases they were women about the same age as me (I am also a woman). In organization 1, Manager A was threatened by me, our roles were unclear, and she had had no managerial training. She pingponged between wanting to be friends and being a cold micromanager. At the time I grinned and bore it because I knew no better. There were few women in leadership there and although religion wasn’t part of the company work, most of the employees were a certain brand of conservative Christian, including her which I’m sure caused her a lot of cognitive dissonance. It’s hard to go from church on Sunday being told to submit to male authority and then hold your own in a department meeting of men who are elders in your church. In retrospect she had a very hard row to hoe and no support from our organization. This didn’t make her a good boss. But I can give her a lot more empathy now, and if I could go back in time armed with some AAM scripts I think work life would have been much better.

    In my current organization? Polar opposite. Manager B may be a novice manager but she had great mentorship by our previous dept leader as well as all our executives. She is amazing at navigating tough boundaries — that is a whole other story — and I have tons of respect for her. I’m also a different employee than I was, and the few times I’ve felt stressed I have been able to use scripts from this site as well as my own expertise to work in partnership with her. The culture in the organization is collaborative and positive.

    I guess I’m saying…there’s no perfect answer. It’s all part of the constellation of factors that go into taking a job.

  75. Joelle*

    I wonder if it would be appropriate for OP to ask what sort of support and guidance is in place for the new manager to succeed in their role.

  76. Ellena*

    I am currently working for a first-time manager and it is pretty terrible. Combined with his narcissistic personality and total inability (and unwillingness) to explain (“you can’t expect to be told what to do, when you see a topic emerging, you take it and figure it out, if questions – you request a meeting”) I am now looking to change the team.
    However, I have also had a first-time manager who was on my level and was generally good. Not as the seasoned experienced ones, but definitely able to address issues, give support, give clear expectations.
    So this has been a learning experience for me too – you have to speak up to them. I really hope that yours has a normal personality and will be able to take and implement feedback.
    And let’s not forget the very obvious thing – every manager has at some point been a first-time manager. If we avoid them, then eventually the experienced ones will retire and nobody will left to manage.

  77. Cassandra*

    My team got a new manager at the end of last year and while yes, it did take a little time for him to come up to speed, he’s hands down the best manager I’ve ever had. Myself and the team were really worried that the culture and collaborative nature would change for the worse but instead he has nurtured and supported us and now I cant imagine not working in his team. I think his not having had direct reports before was a blessing. He listened to what we needed to succeed and shaped his management style around that. Also, because he is very recently an individual contributor as well, he is still very personally empathetic to our struggles and can give advice and coaching that someone who has been in management a long time may not. Good luck and be wary but don’t write the newbie off right away.

  78. Advertiser123*

    Alison’s advice is not bad, but I think it misses a big point— in some industries like advertising, it is possible to become a manager 2.5-4 years into the job, and only stay a manager before getting promoted again for 1-3 years. So if you try to avoid a first year manager, you are going to have trouble getting a job in the industry. Really the question is how involved the director is, because that will give you an indication if the manager is left to their own devices or has enough oversight to manage well and be course corrected.

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