6 Mistakes First-Time Managers Often Make

By Daniel J. Murphy

In the last few years I've transitioned from an individual contributor to a manager. Here are some mistakes I've either made or seen others make as first-time managers.

1. Every time an employee makes a mistake, the manager tries to correct them.

First of all, no one likes a know-it-all – but that's not even the point I want to make. If a manager tries to correct every misstep of the employee, then the employee will develop an inferiority complex and lose confidence. Managers need to understand that under their leadership, their employees will make big and small mistakes. They should not address every small mistake. Instead, I suggest they give their employee's room for trial and error. 

2. The manager is constantly checking on their employee's backlog of work and re-prioritizing it.

This is classic micromanagement. It's jarring, disruptive and gives the employee the impression that the manager is inexperienced. Good managers outline high-level priorities, set goals and then support their employee in achieving those goals.

3. The manager sets unrealistic expectations.

"I want you to grow our blog from 25,000 visits a month to 80,000 visits a month in the next six months." No, that's just not realistic. Give them goals to aspire towards, not impossible goals they can't achieve. Managers shouldn't set their employees up to fail with grandiose objectives because the manager is overly ambitious.

4. The manager does not build an open and constant communication channel.

This is a big one. There are two parts to this. The "open" part means the employee knows at any time if they feel a need to talk to the manager about something, they don't hesitate to do so. The "constant" part refers to repeatable opportunities for the employee to communicate with the manager. The most common repeatable opportunity is a weekly 1:1.


5. Managers aren't loyal enough to their employee.

Manages must establish trust and confidence in the relationship. Showing protective behavior, going the extra mile or demonstrating trust in their employee will build trust and loyalty. People don't quit bad jobs, they quit bad managers. The greatest managers I've had went out of their way for me. Whether it's about a promotion, a raise, another employee creating a hostile work environment or something else, showing loyalty goes a long way.


6. Instead of teaching, the manager just does the work for the employee

I'll avoid using the most common teaching analogy every, about a fish and a man, but that would be sufficient to use here. First-time managers will sometimes try to fix something or if in a time crunch just complete something that the employee was supposed to do. In that situation, yes something gets resolved, but the manager hasn't advanced the employee's knowledge or built confidence in them.

What'd I miss? Comment below.