Transitioning to Management, Made Easy

You’ve heard the phrase, dress for the job you want, not for the job you have.

Well, I am proposing a new, modified version of this statement. Professionalism is, after all, a lot more about your behavior and how you treat people than it is about how you dress.

I propose that we behave for the job we want, not for the job we have, because making the transition into higher levels of management can be a challenge when it calls for a change in our everyday behavior.

Given the heightened level of self-regulation and discipline that comes with heightened responsibility, many people struggle to change their professional persona when their role changes. People who were once our equals – maybe even our friends – now report to us, and it can be awkward and uncomfortable to change the way we relate with those people.  This is where the new, modified statement comes in. If we start managing our professional persona early, then when the time comes to take on more responsibility – and it will – you will have a much easier time making the transition with members of your team.

Some tips for disciplined self-regulation:

  1. Keep in mind that friendliness is different from friendship. Friendship brings with it a certain comfort level and allows us to cross one-another’s boundaries. If we’re being friends in the workplace, it’s not the friend whose boundaries we need to worry about crossing. It’s all the other people who work around you.
  2. Think about the future. Is this unprofessional behavior I’ve been participating in worth it? What are my priorities in my work environment – meeting the behavior expectations of my job, or making friends?
  3. Model your behavior after a professional you admire. Think of a current or previous supervisor you had who seemed to have a great balance between work and their personal life. What steps did they take to make this happen? What was their professional persona like? What habits did they develop to make this easy for them?

Prevention Pays: The cost of reparation

As busy, working professionals, we so often wait for conflict to arise or relationships to deteriorate before we take steps to learn more about human relationships in the work environment. And by that point, the steps toward reparation can seem painful and even daunting. We know this, but we wait anyway. What does it take, then, to convince ourselves to take preventative measures against unnecessary conflicts?

Brown and Rosecrance wrote and edited a book called
The Costs of Conflict: Prevention and Cure in the Global Arena (1999), in which they analyzed the prevention and reparation (“cure”) of specifically armed conflict around the globe. They wanted to expose reasons why the international community spends more time trying to solve serious conflicts after-the-fact than they do trying to prevent them.

Using their book to analyze the costs and benefits of prevention vs cure, the authors found armed conflict prevention to be significantly more economical than efforts to repair or cure relationships after-the-fact. Deep-seated conflicts are, after all, a very difficult type of issue to work with in a group setting, and can have effects that last for extended periods of time. The same can be said for workplace human relationships. Would you rather train your whole staff on themes like diversity and sensitivity, or wait for an accidental, preventable joke to snowball into a liability?


Moral of the story:

If we as working professionals recognize the value in prevention, then we may just be able to use our well-earned time and funds elsewhere.



Brown, M. E., & Rosecrance, R. N. (Eds.). (1999). The costs of conflict: prevention and cure in the global arena (Vol. 118). Rowman & Littlefield.

Your Employer is not Your Mother

Dysfunction, dysfunction, dysfunction.

We live in a dysfunctional world filled with dysfunctional people.

Your Employer is not Your Mom

At some level all of us have issues or psychological  “woundedness” that can hinder us from being effective team players. Perhaps, our wound is  a result of a traumatic childhood event, a dilemma or an act of rejection.  In an ideal world all wounds heal. Ideally, the process of healing frees us once again to function as biology and nature intended. Without going into the details of human biology, many factors work together within and without our tissues to bring about healing and a return to normal. In the same way, many factors working in concert are needed for psychological wounds to heal.

The right conditions are just not always present. It doesn’t take a great level of discerning to recognize the wounds that will and the wounds that won’t heal.  Some wounds are deep and may never heal. Others can with proper self-directed or professional intervention heal.

We can all identify some stage in our lives where we just never got the stuff we needed to thrive. We became wounded and then, according to Choice Theory, chose a purposeful coping strategy. We behave in a way that is purposeful, in that it helps us to cope.  At times, our purposeful coping strategy is ineffective if not down right antisocial when played out in a team setting.

 The playing field of past issues or “woundedness” is our emotions. The purpose of the article is not to suggest the invidious strategy of  sucking it up and moving on. Yet, moving on is important. I won’t even suggest, what I would consider the more simplistic if not callous admonition masquerading as a solution, of checking ones emotions at the door.

Sure, the emotional drubbing our wounds create can lead us to be instigators of some real serious drama in the workplace. Drama that might  give credence to pursuing simplistic admonitions about checking trolls at the front door. Yet, avoiding drama is best done through a more thoughtful, systematic approach. Debra Madel, in her book Your Boss is not Your Mother, suggest  ideas for preventing your issues form creating drama in the workplace as follows:

  1. Befriend your issues, wounds – don’t deny, ignore, bury, or block them – strive to show compassion to self.
  2. Identify and acknowledge how your issues can make a mess of your professional life – what is my contribution to the drama in my workplace?
  3. Acknowledge that it’s unrealistic to expect workplace relationships to be your mother – People in your workplace can’t make up for what you didn’t get. Moreover, you may be projecting thoughts and reactions from past, older experiences on new ones.
  4. Relationships should support and not stifle your professional and personal growth and advancement – set boundaries with people you work with; boundaries that make clear what is toxic to you.
  5. Disengage from power struggles – learn how to get your point across without controling others.
  6. Know when to stay in a job and when to quit – a crazy environment will infect even the most balanced personalities over time.
  7. Take a balanced approach to your work persona: be light-hearted and playful while simultaneously maintaining professionalism. Strife not to take yourself too seriously.


My recommendation. Pick one of the above ideas and work it in the New Year.