This article originally appeared on Builder.com’s sister site, TechRepublic.com.
Let human resources manager and technical recruiter Tim Heard find the answers to your HR questions. Tim shares hints and tips on a host of HR issues in this Q&A format.
Q. I’m the supervisor of a group of four individuals. It was apparent when I was appointed that everyone supported my promotion to the position. Now, after about a year, they appear to be sniping at my decisions and authority at every occasion. How do I change the disposition of this problem?
A. Let me begin by saying that you're not alone. One of the most difficult challenges in a person's career is making the shift from being "just one of the gang" to being a manager or supervisor. Frequently, the powers that be will promote the person with the most seniority or the strongest technical skills without giving much thought to providing the training necessary to help the individual manage his or her new team.
Before I address the specifics of your situation, I'd like to recommend that you get your boss to buy you a copy of the Successful Manager's Handbook by Personnel Decisions International. While this book is no substitute for hands-on training, it does a good job of addressing a lot of the skills a new manager needs. I own the 1996 edition; the book has been revised and updated since then. It's not cheap, but it's worth purchasing, especially if your employer isn’t willing to invest the time and money necessary to train you.
Now, regarding your current situation, it seems to me you're doing pretty well if it has taken your team a year to begin grumbling. For some, the honeymoon is much shorter. The length of your honeymoon indicates that your team members think well of you (or at least they did when you were promoted). My guess is that communications have broken down somewhere, and a few simple steps can help begin to turn things around.
First, if you haven't already, it’s a good idea to begin holding regular (I recommend weekly) team meetings. These meetings will allow you to let the team know what's going on, giving them the "big picture" from the company's perspective. In addition, the meetings will give you the opportunity to listen to the team’s concerns. Let me stress that listening is a key part of these meetings. Communication must be a two-way process.
If you think about it, there are a very limited number of reasons the team is sniping at you. Either they don't understand why you're doing what you're doing, or they think you're making poor decisions. In either case, open communication can improve the team’s morale and perhaps even boost the quality of your decisions.
Next, make an effort to open up informal lines of communication. Make a point of going to lunch with the team, as well as with individual team members, from time to time. If you're like many managers, you may be prone to working through lunch because you're incredibly busy and the team is understaffed. Remember, though, that if you're feeling the stress, your team is probably feeling it too and would benefit from spending time with you.
Finally, keep in mind that, as a manager, you’ll be called upon from time to time to make unpopular decisions. You may even have to implement decisions with which you don't agree. In those times, your team members will undoubtedly complain. However, if you’ve spent time to develop a measure of trust in the department, you'll be able to weather those storms when they come. With luck, they'll be few and far between.