Hey, New Leaders, Are You Feeling the Pinch of the Crab Mentality?
When crabs are captured in a bucket of water, those closest to the top naturally try to escape. Unfortunately for them, the crabs below them reach up and pull them back down into the bucket. Something similar happens when a member of the work team is promoted to supervisor and finds herself supervising former peers. Employees test the new leader to see if he’s still “one of us” or not. They don’t necessarily want or expect you to continue to be part of the group, but they do want to know where you stand and what the new rules of engagement will be. New leaders can avoid succumbing to the crab mentality through their own decisions in a few key areas.
Avoid Playing Favorites
When leading former peers, take deliberate steps to distance yourself from the group. Avoid having lunch with the same people every day or spending more time with some employees than others. These actions avoid real and perceived favoritism and you to establish yourself in this role.
Alternatively, seek feedback from all members of your team. Also, evaluate the strengths and weakness of each employee and capitalize on each person’s strengths when assigning responsibilities and seeking counsel on specific subjects.
There is plenty of debate on whether managers can be friends with employees, but my experience tells me this can be a slippery slope. You can get into trouble quickly by participating in off color jokes, or discussions about sensitive and emotionally charged subjects. These interactions seem perfectly fine until a line is crossed, and once this happens the organization will definitely view you as the one who should have used better judgement. At a minimum, establish boundaries in these relationships between the work environment and during off time.
As a supervisor, you have access to more information than in past roles, and you must quickly determine the line between what can and cannot be shared with employees. Nothing is more detrimental to a supervisor’s credibility than being viewed as an office gossip. Strike that right balance by keeping your team in the loop on information that connects their work to the organization’s performance and other company news, but don’t share plans that haven’t been finalized or have been identified as confidential or sensitive for other reasons.
Ask For Help
New supervisors sometimes put more pressure on themselves than they should by feeling like they always need to have the answers to questions and issues. This can be so isolating, and in reality, it’s an unrealistic expectation. It’s okay to look to others to solve problems, and gain needed assistance to figure things out. In fact, this is a great way to boost morale, because members of the team want to contribute and grow too.
New supervisors sometimes put more pressure on themselves than they should by feeling like they always need to have the answers to questions and issues.
A common way this comes up is by avoiding delegating responsibilities. Maybe as the new leader you want perfection and believe this can only be achieved if you do it yourself. Or, you hang on to responsibilities from your previous role, because you’re really good at them and this boosts your confidence. Regardless of why the reason, HEY HEY, NEW LEADERS (from page 34)
again it prevents other people from getting involved, and limits your ability to grow and focus on the things that are important for you to be successful in your new position.
Remember when you were part of the work group and you and the rest of the group would spend lunch complaining about everything that is broken and how it should be fixed? As a new supervisor, you may be tempted to dive right in and make a bunch of changes right away. My advice to new leaders is to proceed with caution in this area and initially identify one small change. Small accomplishments lead to bigger achievements. This approach allows you the opportunity to learn all aspects behind why things are the way they are and avoid trying to change something that isn’t actually broken. It also gives you the chance to establish a track record of success and send a clear message regarding priorities to your team.
Whether you’ve recently stepped into a supervisory role for the first time or are pursing this type of position as a next step in your career, use these tips to escape the crab mentality and achieve career success.
Vicki Pero is a Principal at Marlyn Group with over 20 years of parking industry experience. Well balanced in operational leadership and support, she zeroes in on employee training, recruitment and organizational development programs to improve business outcomes putting people first.