Gaining Acceptance as the New Manager in the Office

Julie Meloni

Sr Director, Technology Consulting at Slalom Federal



Being the new manager in the office is an exciting but sometimes stressful opportunity. While there are many difficulties the "new kid on the block" might encounter, none of these difficulties will be as stressful as a lack of acceptance by your team.

Actions taken

  • I regularly use icebreakers during check-ins, and the weirder the better. Maybe not weird per se, but off the wall and unexpected -- "hey, why do you think there's fuzz on a tennis ball? Oh hey, speaking of fuzz, what's the weirdest fizzbuzz-like question you've encountered in an interview?" The worst thing that could happen is they look at you incredulously, but often I've found these out of the blue questions get people to open up and show a little bit of themselves and their sense of humor.
  • Try to create cohesion among team members. If you get the sense some people feel isolated, they may be holding something against you (or even the idea of you, the New Manager) and lash out -- and if they don't feel integrated, how will they be able to welcome you into the team? Don't worry about yourself, worry about them and how they work together.
  • If you're working in a Scrum-like environment, use the ceremonies to your advantage -- daily standups are going to force people to be together, so show them your active listening and participating by...not saying anything. But be present and attentive and follow up with each of them about something, anything, after standup, over the course of the week.
  • If you are in proximity and see two team members talking -- join them! Even if you know what they're talking about, pretend that you are unfamiliar with the problem they are discussing -- "That's so interesting! Could you explain that to me?"
  • Remember that the environment might be new to you, but some team members might have been there for some time and are in a demotivated state -- look out for monotonous work or if the work isn't technically challenging. Ask them if they think it is, and how the work could be more interesting, if it isn't. Listen attentively, and don't just jump to the defense of the work, because let's face it, sometimes work is boring and uninteresting.
  • If you work in an office where remote work doesn't happen frequently (let's say more than a regular work from home day each week), keep an eye out for people who opt to work from home at the last minute, regularly, for no particularly good reason. Try to understand why they opt to work remotely -- is there something particularly troublesome about the office environment that's bothering them? Ask them; talk about it. Just start a conversation.

Lessons learned

  • Approach everything with humility by renouncing any "I am in charge" attitude you may have had when you walked into the office. Remember that you are there to empower and encourage your team and help them deliver better results, not merely to assert your authority.
  • Follow the most basic of all processes: establish trust, sit back and listen, feel out the situation, and learn how you can help (then do it).
  • Team members may also want to learn what kind of person you are -- provide them with the opportunity to learn more about you! Be honest and genuine, and they are likely to do the same.
  • If you happen to manage more than one team and you notice a difference between them in terms of gaining acceptance, don't worry -- it probably isn't anything you're doing wrong overall, just remember that people are different and a one-size-fits-all approach won't cover all the things. Be flexible.
  • There are so many different reasons why a team might not eagerly welcome a new manager -- the nature of their work, the general working environment, elements outside of your control -- don't take all the blame without considering the different possible reasons, and focus on what you can do right rather than what you might be doing wrong.

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Julie Meloni

Sr Director, Technology Consulting at Slalom Federal

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyCulture DevelopmentEngineering ManagementPerformance MetricsLeadership TrainingPerformance ReviewsFeedback TechniquesCareer Growth

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