Essential survival tips for first-time managers to avoid common pitfalls

survival tips for first-time managers to avoid common pitfalls


This article was made possible thanks to Homebase, the everything app for hourly teams with scheduling, time clocks, payroll, messaging, and HR —built for small business.

Key points:

  • Get to know your subordinates
  • Give and encourage feedback
  • Emotion regulation as an aspect
  • Don’t obsess over your performance
  • FAQ

Get to know your subordinates

You might be coming in as an external employee or have been promoted above your peers as manager. Regardless of how you got the position, you need to get to know your employees.

You could set up an initial meeting to have a general conversation. It doesn’t have to be entirely work-related. The point is to gain insight into their personalities and behavioural tendencies, as well as share your own. Try to predict areas of friction to prevent conflict ahead of time and plan communication norms and expectations.

A recent survey showed 39 per cent of employees don’t believe there is enough collaboration in their workplace. Furthermore, 86 per cent blame the company for bad communication, and 74 per cent feel they are missing out on current information and news.

Understanding what drives your subordinates will help you overcome challenges and gain insight into their motivation. That’s the first step in learning how to lead a team.

Give and encourage feedback

Ask your team and fellow managers for feedback – it’s important to know how you are doing in your new position. Be positive with any feedback. Encourage constructive criticism and try to improve yourself at every stage.

Emotional regulation as an aspect of management

It can be difficult to control your emotions when managing a team. Here is a short list to navigate the process:

  • Identify the emotion – anger, confusion, disappointment, etc.
  • Why you are feeling it? What provoked it?
  • Consider alternative explanations of the situation
  • How you want to react.

It’s important to consider the employee’s perspective. They might be under excessive pressure, sick, or dealing with an issue they don’t feel comfortable talking about.

While you can’t avoid emotion, you can regulate it. Emotional regulation implies a manager’s ability to respond to negative emotions constructively and acceptably.

A 2023 study on healthcare professionals working in a hospital showed that of the 64 per cent who experienced stress, the level was significantly higher if they were unable to regulate their emotions.

Another study on 2,072 employees working in groups found that the ability to regulate emotions positively correlated with the group’s age diversity.

Don’t obsess over your performance

If you become obsessed with your performance, you risk getting stuck in a cycle of feeling limited and inadequate.

Rather than focus on your shortcomings, remember that you can always improve. It requires a change of mindset: view each challenge as an opportunity to improve a skill instead of something you might fail at.

Don’t make the mistake of striving for perfection; you should aim for effectiveness. As you practise different ways of working as a manager, focus on improving every day. Try to balance your relationships with team members, the results you and your team achieve, and the processes used to achieve them. Relationships can change and improve along the way.

Continuous learning should be your goal. High-performing managers are adept at setting an example and inspiring their employees.


What is the biggest mistake a manager can make?

Not providing feedback. Statistics in 2024 show that 64 per cent of employees have a feedback system in their workplace, and 41 per cent of employees have quit a job because they felt their manager didn’t listen to them. A fifth of employees don’t give their employers feedback, and just 10 per cent said they’re engaged after getting negative feedback.

Other mistakes include being too friendly and “hands-off” and failing to define goals.

Why do some first-time managers fail?

First-time managers frequently make the mistake of micromanaging. Some struggle in their new role and don’t know where to go for help. They get overwhelmed, but they keep moving forward because they don’t want to look weak by asking for help or insight.

What makes bad managers?

Bad managers can be overly demanding and critical, which can lead to employee burnout. They are not responsive, which makes it hard for their teams to reach out with concerns or questions.

What should a first-time manager never do?

Managers should never make threats, gossip, insult their employees, or engage in inappropriate banter with them.


This article was made possible thanks to Homebase, the everything app for hourly teams with scheduling, time clocks, payroll, messaging, and HR —built for small business.