Coming into an established work environment as a new manager has its challenges: getting employees to listen to you and respect you is often one of the leading obstacles. Employees aren’t necessarily being disrespectful if they don’t appear to listen right away. They may just be so accustomed to doing things one way that they find it difficult to make an adjustment to a new approach.
Good First Impression
Staffers are bound to be wary of a new manager coming into what they consider “their” work environment and telling them what to do. Make a good first impression by not coming on too strong initially. Introduce yourself and take time to meet and get to know employees. Express an interest in hearing what they think about how things are run and what suggestions they have for improving employee-management relationships.
Outline Your Expectations
Be clear in letting employees know what you expect from them, and what they can expect of you in return. Put new or under-utilized policies in writing, and if you’re changing standard operating procedures, be specific when you tell employees what the changes mean. Ask for input to show you’re listening to their needs, which will set the stage for insisting they listen to you as well.
If employees aren’t listening to or following directives, issue a friendly reminder of how you expect things to be done. If it happens again, consider whether it’s a willful act of defiance, or a misunderstanding of expectations. If staffers just don’t understand, you need to do a better job reiterating what you want, which you can do through training or reorientation sessions. If you’re dealing with a stubborn or insubordinate employee, you’ll need to take a firmer stance. Follow protocol for counseling employees on performance issues and outline your expectations in writing. If you don’t see improvement, take steps like probationary status, suspension, or if necessary, termination.
Give and Take Feedback
During your first few weeks and months on the job, give regular feedback to staffers and ask for their input in return. Have informal communication sessions where staffers can voice concerns and offer suggestions. Praise individual work efforts, redirect staffers not staying the course and ease yourself into a mutually respectful relationship with your employees.
Give it Time
Don’t expect employees to change gears and come up-to-speed on your expectations overnight. While you don’t want to let employees walk all over you or willfully disregard your management authority, you also don’t want to intimidate or bully staffers either. Be flexible and patient as a way of developing solid relationships with your employees.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.