Managing People

12 mistakes new managers make and how to prevent them

October 16, 2017
November 7, 2023
Lattice Team

Even the best guitarists in the world sound pretty awful the first time they pick up the instrument. It follows, then, that people who have never managed employees before are bound to make mistakes when they’re just starting out. The good news is that by understanding the most common mistakes new managers make, companies and the rookie bosses that work for them can reduce the chances they experience similar missteps.

Here are the 12 most common mistakes new managers make—and how you can prevent them.

1. Trying to do everything themselves

New managers—particularly those hired externally—might be tempted to show their new company their worth by personally doing everything that needs to be done. Managers, however, aren’t hired to work in the trenches. They’re hired to manage people and help their teams reach peak productivity.

The fix: Delegate, delegate, delegate. Figure out which tasks should be taken care of by others and delegate appropriately.  

2. Micromanaging the heck out of their team

Some new managers understand that they can’t do everything. So instead, they do the next closest thing: micromanage their teams to the utmost degree.Yet, as the Harvard Business Review points out, micromanagement disengages employees, therefore reducing productivity.

The fix: Understand that every member of your team was hired for a reason. They’re perfectly capable of taking care of their workloads. If you notice that some members of your team are dragging, then it’s time to intervene. But trusting your team to get their work done should be your default mindset.

3. Tweaking processes and procedures that are already working great

Many new managers think that in order to make an immediate impression, they should completely overhaul their departments shortly after starting their new roles. But unless that’s the exact reason they were hired, such efforts can mess with what’s already working.

The fix: Meet with your team during your first week and ask them what they like best about their jobs—and what they think should be changed, if anything.

4. Judging people based on hearsay

Imagine you’ve just been hired to manage a team of 12. During one of your first meetings with the rest of the managerial team, someone tells you to look out for “Johnny” because he’s a real jerk.

Not only is it unfair, letting opinions like these influence you can hamper your authority and your employees’ motivation.

The fix: Form your own opinions based on your own experiences. You wouldn’t want someone to judge you based on what someone else said.

5. Choosing favorites shortly after coming on board

Virtually all managers are guilty of playing favorites. It’s human nature.

New managers need to understand this proclivity and how harmful it can be. It’s one thing to like certain employees over others, but letting this affect your decision making will almost certainly hurt employee morale. Also, keep in mind that it’s not uncommon for certain employees to suck up to their new bosses in order to fall into their good graces.

The fix: Acknowledge you might have some biases and do everything within their power to curb how this might affect your actions toward individual employees. Make sure you’re divvying up work evenly and giving everyone a similar amount of attention. Meet with each employee privately and get to know them all on a personal basis.

6. Treating everyone on the team exactly the same

New managers might want to perceived of as fair beyond all else, and enact this by treating all their employees the same. However, each member of your team has unique experiences and different skill sets, and thus different management needs.

The fix: New managers need to treat each member of their teams like individuals. For example, you probably don’t want to pick your most introverted employee to give a speech at a conference. By accommodating certain individual needs, you’re setting each employee up to succeed instead of stacking daunting tasks on their plates that stifle productivity and hurt engagement.

7. Expecting one thing but doing the opposite

Imagine a new manager is a stickler about the fact that the work day starts at 9 a.m. and doesn’t end until 5:30 p.m. This individual expects folks to be on time—and never to leave early.

The problem is that they themselves routinely show up late and leave early.

The fix: Nobody likes leaders who hold their employees to higher standards than they hold themselves. Work hard and lead by example.

8. Acting like they are best friends with their teams

In an effort to get their new employees to like them, some new managers act more like peers than superiors. Over time, this can lead to some employees feeling as though you’re playing favorites, while other employees might start thinking of you more like a friend than a boss—and stop taking you as seriously.

The fix: While you should definitely be cordial with your employees and get to know each of them on a personal level, draw the line at “friendship.” Managers are supposed to be leaders—not peers.

9. Mimicking others and otherwise being inauthentic

In an effort to be liked by their new employees, some rookie managers might take a page out of someone else’s playbook. Let’s say a super popular manager moves to another company and you’re promoted to replace them. You may be tempted to mimic the previous manager’s approach as a means to quickly secure your employees’ goodwill.

But if it doesn’t come natural, it can have the opposite effect. At best, they may get annoyed; at worst, they may think you’re incapable of coming up with your own ideas.

The fix: You are your own person. It may take a while to develop your unique managerial approach and you can borrow some ideas every now and again. But never forget that you were chosen to lead the team because your company sees great things in you.

10. Being afraid to ask for help

In an effort to give off the impression that they know what they’re doing, some new managers hesitate to ask questions. Instead of doing things the right way, they guess at how something should be done and stubbornly move forward. Maybe this approach works out just fine sometimes. But most of the time it doesn’t, and the rest of the team is forced to correct a mistake.

The fix: Be teachable. You expect your employees to come to you with questions when they’re unsure of how to do something. Do the same and seek help when you’re confused.

11. Saying yes to everything

To make a good impression as a new manager, you may be tempted to say yes to everything that’s asked of you. This is the perfect recipe for burnout.

The fix: Instead, pick and choose your battles. Know your limits. Learn how to say no—no matter how uncomfortable it might be at first. And, once again, remember to delegate.

12. Focusing on weaknesses instead of strengths

To the end of making their overall teams stronger, new managers might be tempted to focus on each employee’s individual weaknesses in attempt to help them improve.

While you should definitely try to help your employees reach their full potential, emphasizing their weaknesses when you’re just starting out can be very demotivating.

The fix: When you’re new, play to your employees’ strengths. Employees will have more fun at work and your team will produce better work.