So, at last, after years of hard work you have your longed-for promotion. What happens next?
By Mair Rowlands: Chwarae Teg – North Wales Regional Project Co-ordinator.
According to research, all is not as it seems once the promotion is gained with many women experiencing feelings of isolation and struggling to settle in to the new role.
As a new manager you find yourself trying to fit in to both camps. To the established managers you’re the new girl and need to prove yourself and then you have to prove yourself with your team as well. You are no longer one of the team and that special relationship you had with them can be at risk.
When I was promoted, I found myself excluded from the everyday chatter with the team and at times all conversation stopped when I entered the office.
The colleagues I’d worked with for years were like strangers and I felt alienated, lonely and very unhappy in my new role.
I finally realised that it wasn’t just difficult for me but it was also difficult for them. They didn’t know how to react, was I their friend or their manager? They didn’t know how they should behave or what I wanted and how I wanted to be treated. The truth is I didn’t know myself.
I felt I needed to develop my own management style and felt I had to assert my authority but by trying to do, so I only succeeded in alienating my team even further.
It took the advice of a good friend, who was also a manager for me to recognise that I was trying to fix something that wasn’t broken. I didn’t need to assert my authority, I needed to let them do what they were good at and I needed to treat them like the capable adults they were.
When we had an issue I asked their advice, when we needed to extend our hours I gave them the times and they sorted out the cover.
When we needed to restructure they worked it out together and came up with a new rota. It took time and I developed a lot of new skills along the way and my confidence grew but for a long time it was not a happy experience.
Between 1994 and 2004 the proportion of women in management posts trebled, rising from fewer than one in ten in 1994 to one in three in 2004. ( Management Trainee 2000 – 2015 ) I’d wager that every one of those new managers spent their first few months struggling with the isolation of the role.
Becoming a manager is a big step in one’s career whereas training and support is not always forthcoming. Sadly, sometimes it’s just the loneliness and isolation at the top that results in women giving up on being a manager.