Are you a new manager? Setting your boundaries is important

by Directioneering

Managing people can be extremely rewarding, but it’s not without its challenges. It’s important to establish some boundaries regarding the relationships you have with your direct reports. Learning how to establish and maintain appropriate boundaries is central to the development of every new manager.

As a manager, the people you manage can’t be the friends you go out for drinks with after work on a regular basis, even if you did so previously. It’s reasonable to arrange occasional social events with your direct reports—and as the boss, you can expect to buy a round — but it would be wise to keep it to a minimum.

Your approach

Another element of maintaining appropriate manager/employee boundaries involves the way you present yourself at work. Make sure your attire, behaviour, and communication style are all professional. Consider, too, the kind of management style you want to adopt. Do you want to be a very hands-on manager? Do you want to be a laissez-faire manager? Determine what the right approach is for you, your people, and your organisation’s culture. Keep in mind that with your new responsibilities you’ll be assessed on your capabilities as a manager. Take some time to reflect on the managers you had who were the most effective, whose style you could learn from and emulate. Additionally, consider the managers you found ineffective and develop strategies to avoid those pitfalls.

Your role as a manager

Focus on what the essential role of a manager is: ensuring that your employees have the skills, tools, support, and energy to understand and succeed at their responsibilities and to remain engaged with the organisation. In this role, you will be reviewing the contribution of each team member and areas for them to develop. It’s crucial to provide feedback to employees in an appropriate and beneficial way.

Supporting your team

Work on making sure your communication and actions are framed positively. The difference between thinking of your job as supporting employees’ success versus catching them doing something wrong will help you establish appropriate relationships. Regardless of the age of the new manager, everyone must establish an effective management approach – you want to be supportive and focused on development, rather than nitpicking and finding everything that’s wrong with your employees’ performance. You also don’t want to take the overly agreeable approach of letting people go early or come in late as a way to build allegiance to you as a leader. Professional behaviour is your key focus.

Maintain confidentiality

New managers need to pay extra attention to confidentiality. There are a number of things you can no longer talk about with your co-workers that you may have formerly discussed over lunch. You and your team need to recognise this shift, so that your employees don’t put you in a position of asking for more information than you’re able to give.

Be authentic

If your relationship with your employees is overly casual and friend-based, you might experience challenges to your authority or unprofessional reactions to feedback. If you are too aloof, you are not presenting your authentic self, which is key to good workplace dynamics. Managers want to have good relationships with the people they work with. This means understanding and acknowledging who they are outside of work on a regular basis; it does not mean being best friends who share everything over cocktails. A supportive and understanding management style will help build long-term successful relationships, exceptional productivity, and long-term success with employees of any age.

Whether newly-appointed or experienced in the role, strong managers lead to strong teams that are more effective and contribute more to an organisation’s goals.

How we can help

Through our management training and leadership development programs, we have significant experience helping new managers grow, thrive, and increase contributions to their organisations. We are committed to providing a range of assessments, manager training, and leadership development programs to develop strong managers, leaders, and teams.

This article was written by Elaine Varelas,  Managing Partner at Keystone Partners, our partner firm in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, USA.