10 Things Not to Do as a Manager on Your First Day

Thanks to the Grindstone for the inspiration of this post. Their 10 things you should not do on the first day of a new job is a great list for new employees, and it reminded me of many of the mistakes I’ve seen managers make on their first day.

Erik K Veland Creative Commons License

The main goal for a manager on their first day is to listen. Avoid making enemies, and avoid statements that will keep you from being successful long-term. Instead, start building alliances and connections with people. Make sure everyone knows that you intend to work hard, listen well, and praise often. Remember, the manager title magnifies everything you do. Employees watch every move you make and hear every thing you say.

  1. Don’t spend all your time talking about yourself and your accomplishments. If they care, they’ll have checked you out on LinkedIn already. From their perspective, you haven’t accomplished anything yet. You just got here. Blabbering on about yourself will just make you seem arrogant.
  2. Don’t make judgement statements about the way things are done. Regardless of how much research you’ve done, you have no idea how things are really done, you don’t know who set it up that way, and you don’t know who you will be offending. If you think something should be changed, there’s plenty of time after you know why it’s like that and whose toes you’re stepping on.
  3. Don’t badmouth your predecessor or their decisions. Every outgoing boss leaves behind friends, mentors, and confidants, and it’s very likely that they are the very best people you have. It’s also highly likely that your predecessor did not make decisions in a vacuum. The people you are speaking to likely had a say in the decisions you are questioning.
  4. Don’t make statements about expectations that you don’t intend to follow yourself. I once had a boss who, in his first hour of meeting each one of his direct reports, proclaimed “this is a 24/7 business”. Unfortunately, his work hours did not show that. The office joke became that 24/7 meant 24 hours every 7 days. Be careful not to set yourself up to be the company joke.
  5. Don’t over schedule yourself with meetings that lock you up in your office all day. People are not excited that you are here. They are nervous and scared that their lives are about to change for the worse. They need to see you and believe that they have a place in the new world. Wander around and introduce yourself. Eat in the cafeteria. Let them know you really don’t eat brimstone and breathe fire.
  6. Don’t make changes to common spaces unless it’s dangerous or dirty. Common spaces drive culture. You may not like that neon green wall but for the people sitting by it, it could signal energy and positivity. Covering the conference room windows for privacy could signal to your employees that the open door management environment they’re used is shifting to a closed, exclusionary, and secretive one.
  7. Don’t buy expensive stuff for your new office. If that office chair is serviceable, use it. Employees are seeing their benefits, salaries, and time off cut on a regular basis. Spending hundreds of dollars to order an unnecessary luxury is a slap in the face to your employees. If you really don’t like your office, get up and walk around like you should be doing anyway.
  8. Don’t listen to the sycophants. The worst employees are thrilled to see their manager go away before they get fired themselves. They’ll be the first to welcome you with open arms.
  9. Don’t work less than nine hours. Employees really don’t usually understand the amount of effort most managers put into their job. For at least the first day, face time matters. Let them know you are excited to be there and anxious to work as hard as they do.
  10. Most importantly, don’t pass up the chance to give a sincere compliment. People want to work for managers who care about them and will help them be successful. The first time you meet an employee, focus on what positives they bring to the table and recognize them for that. Your whole first day should be about making real connections that will help you make the changes you’ll need to make.
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