How to Transition from Individual Contributor to Manager

TipsForOvercomingBossStigmaImagine you’re walking around the office and you hear talking and laughter as you approach the break room. But as you enter, all discussion stops and  the only thing that greets you is silence.

This is boss stigma. It’s not easy to overcome the stereotypes and stigmas that come with being “the boss.” You want to be able to coach team members without intimidating them, and you certainly don’t want them to feel like they can’t trust you.


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5 Tips for Overcoming "Boss Stigma"

It may seem tough, but there are ways to shrug off boss stigma, develop authentic relationships with direct reports, and create an awesome workplace. Here are five tips to help you transition from individual contributor to manager.


1. Pose questions and listen intently.

The most important thing you can do is make employees feel like you care about them. They want to feel safe and valued at work. Create a culture where 360-degree feedback is commonplace: employees can give feedback to anyone, including you. When you listen to employees and act on the feedback they give, you begin tearing down the dreaded “boss wall.” Employees feel more comfortable bringing their thoughts and opinions to you, creating a safe workplace where everyone has a voice and feels comfortable sharing.


2. Recognize employees for strong performance.

Champion employee successes based on their personal preferences. Employees want to feel valued and know that their contributions matter. Show that you appreciate their efforts by spotlighting occasions when they were especially productive, helped a coworker, or exemplified a company value.

This can be as simple as a shout-out at the next team meeting or a card on an employee’s desk. Recognizing employees makes you seem more like an encouraging coach rather than a ruler.


3. Don't be a dictator.

Even though you have the final say when decisions are made, you don’t want to lord your power over employees. This creates fear, and fear leads to disengagement. Create a culture where your employees respect you as their leader and follow your decisions, but also feel safe coming to you with comments and concerns. Give credit where it’s due instead of grabbing the limelight for yourself.


4. Create employee goals that align with your own.

Show employees how their work affects your performance by thoughtfully creating goals that align everyone on the team. This creates a we’re-all-in-this-together feel, with you leading the charge. Consider how each employee’s work plays into the overall initiatives of the team and the organization, and be transparent.


5. Be a human.

That may seem simple and self-explanatory, but being human important to overcome boss stigma. You can make yourself more approachable simply by opening up and having conversations with employees. When you have conversations with employees about things outside of work—family, hobbies, favorite sports team, best restaurants—you become more relatable and develop deeper connections.



Following these new manager tips will help you overcome boss stigma and create an awesome workplace for your employees. Boss stigma is just one of the three manager challenges we identified through research and interviews with managers. Learn more about the other two in our ebook, How to Be a Better Manager and Connect with Your Employees.


How to Be a Better Manager and Connect with Your Employees

Published February 12, 2019 | Written By Dan Hoppen