advice for new managers

I’ve had a bunch of questions recently from new managers looking for advice. Here’s a round-up of past columns with advice for new managers.

This is by no means comprehensive; there’s lots more advice if you look through the “being the boss” section of the archives.

general advice for managers

advice for first-time managers

how can I tell if I’m a good manager?

first-time manager? here’s what you need to know

reality-based management

your general vibe

how I can be more authoritative now that I’m a manager?

my staff tells me what they’re doing rather than asking permission

is it bad for managers to sound frustrated or impatient?

as a manager, do I need to hide my stress from my employees?

what should your tone sound like when you’re the boss?

how much should I change my style to meet my employee’s emotional needs?


how to delegate when you desperately don’t want to let go

don’t expect your staff to read your mind

should managers ask or tell when assigning work?

giving feedback

how can I stop softening the message in tough conversations with my staff?

new manager wonders about the best way to give feedback

I need to give my employee more positive feedback

how to criticize someone’s work without making it awkward

what do I say when an employee assumes they can do something that they shouldn’t?

is it true that nothing in a performance review can ever be a surprise?

dealing with performance problems

how to deal with employee performance problems

what to do if an employee keeps missing deadlines

how much should I hand-hold a disorganized employee?

my employees are making mistakes, but I don’t want to micromanage

my employee has a bad attitude

I feel awful about giving a bad performance review

holding people accountable isn’t always about formal action; sometimes it’s just a direct conversation.

what consequences can managers enforce, other than firing someone?

how can remote managers address problems they hear about secondhand?

is your problem employee coachable?


how to make 1-on-1 check-in meetings more useful

how to solve a conflict on your team

what should a new manager ask to get to know employees better?

are new managers supposed to be this stressed out?

I’m becoming my friend’s boss — do things have to change?


Managing to Change the World

Managing to Change the WorldThere’s also my book, Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager’s Guide to Getting Results. While it’s targeted toward nonprofit managers, about 98% of it applies across sectors.

Ask a ManagerAsk a Manager: How to Navigate Clueless Colleagues, Lunch-Stealing Bosses, and the Rest of Your Life at Work

There’s also Ask a Manager: How to Navigate Clueless Colleagues, Lunch-Stealing Bosses, and the Rest of Your Life at Work , where I take on more than 200 of the tough conversations you might need to have during your career and give you the exact wording to do it — including 50 conversations for managers.


* I make a commission if you use those Amazon links.

{ 21 comments… read them below }

  1. greenie*

    This couldn’t have come at a better time. I was just promoted to a management position and the person under me starts next week.

    Thanks for collating all your brilliant advice!

  2. Sloanicota*

    I’d love to see new resources on how to manage well remotely! With so many more all-remote offices we’re all going to need new systems.

    1. Warrant Officer Georgiana Breakspear-Goldfinch*

      Oh, that would be great. A lot of it is the same: use your words, listen to what people are saying, etc., but some of it is definitely different.

  3. Corrigan*

    As a new manager, thank you! I’ve been reading Managing to Change the World! (I’d already read your other book.)

  4. Wendy T*

    Thank you for all these links! As a suggestion, have you considered using for affiliate links instead of Amazon? They have an affiliate program as well and more of their profits goes to local bookshops. Would love to support you without giving any more money to Bezos

  5. Jack Straw from Wichita*

    I was this many years old when I realized that Alison had TWO books. I’m off to find the nonprofit one! TY for including it in the post!

  6. Lucy P*

    Thanks for compiling this. I wish I would have had access to this info 15 years ago when I started managing.

  7. SomewhereUnderTheSea(OfVPs)*

    One of the things that I would love to see advice on, but never exactly know how to phrase as a question is how to manage the lack of actual power as a newish manager. There is one person below me and 5 (or more?) layers of management above, so I’m never actually setting priorities and I mostly have to involve someone with more authority when things go wrong. I’m never sure how to communicate about this reality professionally (especially when we’re both clearly frustrated). Sometimes I feel more like a mentor than a manager.

  8. NellyB*

    I suspect I’m one of the people that wrote in and prompted this post and I wonder if I might ask the excellent commentariat for some other related advice too:

    I’m actually launching a new business so as well as management stuff, I’m also really interested in how to create the best possible workplace culture. What systems and processes do you think are necessary to enable an excellent culture? And what separates the best work places from those that are just good?

  9. Orange You Glad*

    Also echoing the perfect timing of this post. Last week it was shared with me that my boss is re-orging our department and a coworker who has become a friend is now going to report up to me. We were friendly as coworkers, occasionally going out for lunch or a drink, but she is now remote in another state so that kind of stuff doesn’t happen anymore. I came on here today to read some older letters about managing friends or former equals and I think I’ll be able to approach this situation without any issues (at least from my end).

    1. silver moose*

      I’ve managed two people that were friends/former equals before managing them. You kind of have to detach a little – in both cases I was a little sad that I didn’t really have the opportunity to pursue the friendship on the level I wanted to, but it was important for me to be friendly without being close friends. It worked out well in both cases – one’s still ongoing, but in the other case the person moved onto a new job and we were able to forge a real friendship after they left.

  10. WhyAreThereSoManyBadManagers*

    Hope it’s ok to share few tips for what not to do from someone who has worked under their share of really bad managers:
    – Don’t threaten your employees. In any way. (Seems like a no-brained but again, bad managers do this all the time.)
    – Don’t take credit for other people’s work. If your employees did the work and you submit it, credit and recognize them.
    – Don’t ghost or purposely ignore your employees or their requests for info/help.
    – Don’t break the law by choosing not to report illegal activities by employees just because you like them or don’t want to have to replace them.
    – Have the integrity to help people learn and do better when they make mistakes, instead of berating them and insulting them and making them feel as small as possible.

    1. Sabine the Very Mean*

      And endeavor to be as flexible as possible with how and when employees work, especially your higher performers. If an employee doesn’t need much management, back off.

      1. Doodad*

        If an an employee doesn’t need oversight, sure, I will back off the day to day. I am going to listen to that employee a little bit more.

        Sure, maybe a high performer is perfectly happy where they’re at right now but what about 6, 12 or 24 months from now? Thinking of the organization and the individual, I’d ask is there a place where they can get and give more value? High performing people need challenges and they’ll find them on their own. Sometimes to their own detriment. I will ask, how can I use my role, resources and experience to support? What roadblocks can we chip away at? What can I learn?

  11. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    Thank you for this timely collection. I am dealing with several issues in this area right now, but my underlying problem is that I never wanted to be a people-manager and I was very direct and blunt with my employer about not wanting to be a people manager. But my employer didn’t care what I wanted, nor did my employer care about my work strengths and weaknesses. *sigh* I wonder how many unhappy managers are out there, feeling trapped and forced like me.

  12. Manager-no more*

    I’ve been a manager for a year and I really can’t get the swing of it. I was great at my old job – i was promoted twice in 2 years. Now as a manager, I feel so anxious all the time and I have social anxiety so that does not help. I can’t even send back a wrong order at Starbucks, giving feedback is so hard and I’m sure my team can tell. I’m looking for other roles but feel like a failure. I’m going to read all of these maybe that will help

  13. MurpMaureep*

    First, all of this is great advice and what I’m about to say doesn’t mean to discount that. I also realize that I’m going to get lumped in with the recent #notallmanagers LW (for whom I had a lot of sympathy, if I’m being totally honest).

    In my experience managers are not given anywhere near the time, resources, or leeway required to manage well. If they get even 50% of Alison’s advice right they are probably in the top 10% of all managers and are seen as wildly successful.

    I have about 20 direct reports, all of whom do complex, niche work for very demanding customers. Simply supporting them and their day-to-day work is a full time job. Yet I’m also responsible for projects that span multiple groups (think dotted line relationships), our interactions with customers and leadership, and high level organizational goals. I am, by all accounts, considered an exceptional manager. Many staff had said I’m the best manager they’ve ever had. Leadership and our partners give me and my team high praise. I’m sought out for advice as both an SME and someone with a high EQ. But I’m incredibly overworked, constantly burned out, and not nearly as well compensated as I should be. Requests for additional support, reduction of direct reports/projects, etc. are met with hand-waving about budgets and advice to “not beat yourself up if things are not perfect”. The subtext there is “don’t worry if you don’t support the people, just get the work done”. I am not alone in this. My experience is the experience of almost everyone who manages in my organization from Team Leads to Directors of divisions.

    Sadly it doesn’t benefit most companies/organizations to let managers manage well as long as the work gets done and there is relatively little disruption and turnover. For any new manager reading all the advice, above, don’t be discouraged if this is overwhelming or you see no way to tackle it all at once. Pick one thing to concentrate on and work on that. Find satisfaction in day-to-day wins.

    I say all this as someone who works for a major academic medical institution that provides exceptional patient care and does cutting edge research. I am incredibly proud to work where I do and I know that my contributions matter! Most people don’t have that to fall back on.

    Bottom line, yes, ideally managers can and will do all of this but it’s entirely possible to have a kind, strong, competent manager who would love to do a good job and simply can’t.

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