An ACQYR reader from Springfield, IL submitted a really important question about a recent job promotion. The original advice submission is below (with minor edits to protect his/her identity). Part 1 is a response by Ronnie Nijmeh and Part 2 offers a second opinion with a response by Gabriel Nijmeh.
“I was recently promoted to become director and started this job yesterday. I was a supervisory manager over 13 employees and my focus was there. Now I must focus on every Supervisor, manager, and team and build these relationships more than I have in the past as their peer. I am the youngest amongst those selected and the one with less years under my belt. I have been with the organization for 15 years but still feel the resentment from some but my climb was quick. Most of those whom I will be over have been in higher ranks for years. My question is: What are some ways to win over some of the tougher co-workers, to first accept me in this role and second to take me seriously and respect my input into their programs. I already know my boss wants me to make some changes in some of our program areas, which I am ready for the challenge, but need some tips.”
First of all, don’t doubt yourself or your abilities. You were promoted for a reason. Probably a very good reason that has very little to do with your age and more to do with your skill set or vision.
Just imagine if we reversed the roles. What if a younger co-worker became your boss? What would he/she have to do to earn your respect? Think realistically about that.
Part of being a successful director is playing the part, and that means dressing appropriately, and coming to work well-groomed. This will help you maintain a level of professionalism and help you seem (and feel) more approachable. You likely know this already, but repeating it doesn’t hurt.
Look the Part
Not only do you want to play the part, but you want to look like you know what you’re doing because if you seem like a friendly person who can provide the information needed to succeed, you will gain respect quickly. Try to:
Be organized Prepare ahead of time and do the necessary research or reading beforehand Anticipate problems and questions – that means being proactive Be punctual For meetings, be organized and arrive a few minutes early to prepare Convey confidence (but not overconfidence!) Get to know people by their first names (if you haven’t already)
Depending on the culture of your office, you might want to consider performing some small acts of kindness such as bring in some goodies one day, especially for one of your first meetings as a group. It could be candies or some special home-baked cookies or just take a teammate out for coffee one day. This might help them to see that you care about their well-being and want to start off on the right foot.
You’ve heard of the “open door policy” but take that to a new level. Take a stroll around the office or workplace and openly tell them that you’re there to help make their jobs easier and more interesting. If they ask a question that you don’t know the answer to, get back to them and follow up with them to ensure that you were able to help them.
For those new programs that you mentioned, involve the others to get their input, if possible. If they’re involved, any changes that result would be more accepted since there would’ve been a collaborative effort made.
Get your Co-Workers Feedback
Try to talk to each teammate one-on-one to get their feedback. Ask them what they’d like to see from you in order to help make their job more enjoyable and easier. And when they give you this feedback, actually do it and provide them with checkpoint sessions so they know that you’ve taken to heart what they’ve suggested. If it’s not possible to implement their suggestions, tell them why! It’s your job to help them understand the boundaries. If they understand the “why’s,” they’ll be more accepting of your position and decisions.
Also, don’t be afraid to admit your mistakes or approach one of your subordinates and ask them for their advice. Tell them that you really respect their opinion and that you want their input on a specific problem. Being honest about it and showing respect will hopefully be appreciated among your staff.
Finally, don’t forget about your boss. Talk to him/her and see if he/she has any ideas on how you can work closer with the team and if you’re allowed to get their feedback.
It’s Easy to Get Discouraged, But I Won’t Let You
As a brief warning, don’t get discouraged if you find that you get negative responses or people are unwilling to accept your genuine attempts. They might be cynical of your attempts at first. They might say (or think): “She’s just trying to buy us over with food” or “Now she asks for our ideas. Where was she before?” Or perhaps they simply ignore your attempts. But don’t give up. If you’re making genuine, wholehearted attempts to win them over and be a helpful director, your efforts will be rewarded in the end. Genuine kindness goes a long way.
Those tips should get you off on the right foot, but don’t get me wrong, it’s likely going to be tough to implement everything. It’s very easy for me to suggest all these great ideas to you, but it’s a whole different story to actually do them. It’s okay to be uneasy about the situation, but with time and a little effort, things will hopefully be smooth sailing!
Let me know if there’s anything else you’d like to discuss. And I’d encourage you to take a read of more articles on ACQYR, perhaps specifically the People Management section.
Best of luck!