Gaining Team Respect as a New Manager

Alexandra Sobhani

Engineering Manager at Google



It was pretty obvious that I wasn't getting the kind of respect that the other engineering managers were getting. There was another manager that started two weeks before me who bolstered a lot of deference with his booming voice and commanding presence, likewise, making everyone think he was in charge. In those two weeks he'd started a lot of new practices and processes. I, however, take a more 'listen first' attitude, which I think made me seem inferior in the eyes of some of my engineers. Very early on, in the first week, one of my new engineers said out loud, in a common area where others could hear, that he wondered why I was his manager and not the other, more forceful manager whose style he admired more.

Actions taken

  • Even though this made me want to be domineering, I stuck to my guns and was very loyal to my team. I made sure they got the support they needed from me and acted on the feedback they gave about working environment swiftly.
  • I would also put my foot down after meetings with the executives on how we should be handling the engineering team's time.

Lessons learned

  • Staying loyal to my team despite the hurt I was feeling allowed my team to see that I cared about them and would do everything in my power to help them. It did, however, take several weeks time to gain this trust.
  • Holding my stance on executive level orders helped my team to understand that even though I am good to them, I am certainly not a pushover.
  • Although it is not my personal style to do this, I think it might have been smarter to come in with a plan. It would have inspired some confidence from early on. I do believe that on the contrary, it is also important to listen first and then act on that.
  • I would have communicated more frequently with my team because I was spending a lot of my time with upper management and hiring new people when I first started.
  • Overall, I needed to get my action items in line faster so that my team members could actually be doing things. This would have instilled trust that I can do things quickly and emphatically.

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Alexandra Sobhani

Engineering Manager at Google

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentEngineering ManagementFeedback TechniquesCareer GrowthLeadership RolesTeam & Project Management

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