Thursday, May 7, 2009

Less could be more!

A reader asks:

Recently I’ve been allotted a new project (could be for the next one year or more) which requires me to report to a manager with much lesser experience than me in my field of work. I’ve more than 14 years of work experience and the manager has far lesser experience. I’m apprehensive about the whole thing. Is this common practice? I like the project that’s assigned to me and don’t want to lose it. Can I ask HR to help with this?

First, your situation is not a unique one. They have been others who have gone through the same path. Many a time people have even come out as better individuals than before! Really.

In your case, HR can help you. By making you realize that the manager has the required skills, expertise & most importantly enough maturity to manage a team which has people with more experience. They’ll also tell you that you have the required expertise to do wonders with work that’s assigned to you. Their explanations may sound boring. But you must know that HR isn’t the only department that takes decisions on making managers out of people. Yes, they are involved, but eventually they’ll need a buy-in from the to-be-the-manager’s boss as well as from senior management. So effectively there is a lot of thought behind making a person a manager. At least that’s the way it should be. Unless you are telling me otherwise.

Maybe this is a first time in 14 yrs of working that you are getting to experience this. Your apprehension is understandable. But there’s a shift that’s already happened within many companies where age or numbers of years of work experience doesn’t determine your move to the next level. There are usual suspects like - capability, dependability, expertise, leadership qualities, problem solving skills (includes conflict management) and maturity, which help determine a manager. Above all, humility is a big factor in deciding a manager.

You could make things better for yourself.

- Give yourself time. Being judgmental will only hurt your chances of creating conducive work environment. It’s quite possible that the manager is thinking about this too!

- Don’t take up the project with pre-conceived thoughts. Like trying the project for a week or two & then deciding next steps. Relationships at work need more time than a couple of weeks. Go with an open-mind and take it one day at a time.

- Give the manager a chance. Really. You never know more about a manager until you have worked with him. No matter what others say, the manager & you could get along like just fine.

- Please don’t play the comparison game. There are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ managers. Only managers. Really. Your previous manager was excellent, but you may have worked with him for a longer period of time to get a balanced relationship.

It’s great that you like the project you have been assigned. You then have enough reasons to focus your energy on work & let the results speak. I suggest you take up the project and you'll definitely have few things to learn and share with this manager.

All the best!