Written by Simon Herrington | 16th November 2023
Sometimes star performers are promoted to management roles because they are great at their job – but that doesn’t always mean they have the people skills they need to lead a team.
The transition from being an employee to a manager is a big step and training is crucial to ensure this happens smoothly.
‘Accidental managers’ are those thrown into the role with little to no training – they may feel in over their head, and anxious about they should approach leading a team and the possibility of failure.
This not only has an impact on the managers themselves, but the team, wider office culture and business.
Here are some of the potential negative impacts of creating accidental managers and recommendations on how to support them.
Impact on managers themselves
Failing to set expectations for managers is setting them up for failure – they don’t know what managing people will entail and even if they will enjoy the role!
Accidental managers may focus on ‘the day job’ because it’s what they know, at the expense of the new role. They may even actively avoid some management responsibilities because they lack the confidence to address them.
If they then don’t perform well, they may not only feel demotivated but incapable of doing their job. Their credibility in the eyes of senior managers may be affected, leading them to be less respected.
Don’t forget that if you have recognised someone’s potential by making them a manager, that should motivate them to stay with the business, rather than leave because they have been set up to fail. But a series of mistakes or negative feedback could change their mind.
Impact on employees
From an employee point of view, working under an ‘accidental manager’ can be frustrating. They don’t know the manager lacks training and could feel a sense of injustice from someone being promoted who is not competent in the role.
Poor communication from a lack of leadership training can lead to misunderstandings, and employees being unsure about what they are responsible for. This can result in employees feeling unheard, unsupported and undervalued.
If a manager doesn’t manage any problems, it will be difficult for employees to want to maintain high performance levels or enthusiasm for their job.
Impact on wider business and culture
Manager behaviour sets an example, and their leadership style or how they lead a team will encourage everyone to behave in those ways.
Managers can be described as ‘guardians’ or ‘keepers’ of culture as they have a direct effect on their teams’ attitudes and behaviour as well as being drivers of cultural change. Bad behaviour going unchecked creates a toxic work culture, reducing employee morale and could influence employees to leave.
Even in the best case, there may at least be a short-term drop in productivity as the new manager picks up the reigns.
The bottom line is productivity, motivation and engagement within the team will take a hit which could lead to increased staff turnover. There’s an old saying that still rings true today – people don’t quit their jobs, they quit their managers.
Here are some recommendations on how to support accidental managers:
Provide tailored training
Having the most effective managers possible is a vital step in retaining talent in your business, and leadership development is a big part of this.
This is not just putting someone in a classroom environment and letting them leave with a handbook, you need to tailor the training to suit the needs of the individual.
Ensure that the person the new manager reports to is engaged in the process, understands where training is taking place and provides opportunities for them to put new skills into practice.
It may not be realistic to send a manager on a five-day training programme, and it’s unlikely they will be able to learn how to be a knowledgeable and skilled manager in just five days.
Training should be flexible, ongoing, and in the format, they prefer, for example, weekly online workshops or one-to-one coaching sessions.
Our bespoke training programmes for new managers include a solid introduction to employment law, the role and responsibilities of a manager, equality, diversity and inclusion, recruitment, performance management and managing difficult people.
Give them the tools for the job
Managers, especially new ones, need to be equipped with the right tools for the job. This can come from peers, mentors, online resources, research, reading and development programmes.
Creating a mentoring programme will help your managers benefit from the knowledge and support senior managers/leaders can offer.
One crucial way for people to grow and develop as a manager is to receive feedback from their line manager, team members or employer. This could be gathered by giving a satisfaction survey to their team or an assessment.
Regular feedback can help identify any weaknesses in their management style and behaviour, and opportunities for training – which you should support them to start as soon as possible. Make a point to identify areas where the manager has ‘hit the ground running’ and demonstrated that they are on top of the new role.
In 1:1 meetings, you could ask them to prepare an agenda on how they feel they are performing and raise any issues or challenges they have recently experienced. You could also prepare thoughts on their recent work you’d like to praise or see improved.
Encourage them to build good relationships
Being a manager can be an isolating job, especially if they were a team member promoted to managing the same team – they may be confused about whether they are “still one of them.”
Managers should be encouraged to have peer 1:1s and team meetings to keep communication frequent and reassure employees that they are there to support them.
By providing the right level of regular support, and helping them develop their knowledge and people management skills, you can help accidental managers to succeed.