A Common Problem

J. Keith Hughey


Volume XXI, Number 35 (Issue 1039) August 28, 2023

A Common Problem

If you happen to be a member of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), you know that body generates a lot of content, not to mention some high- quality programming for HR professionals. As a member of SHRM myself, their various e-mails make their way into my inbox two or three times a day. Some days I barely manage to glance at the subject line or headlines, let alone read the articles. In that regard, it may be similar to what some of you experience when these Musings arrive each Monday morning. Yet there are days – like last Wednesday – when the title of an article grabs my attention. Specifically, I am talking about the article entitled “First-Time Managers Are Often Ill-Prepared.” Interestingly, the next article in that same issue addressed manager burnout, so I read it too. But that is a topic I will hold for another day (though they are closely related).

For now, I will limit my comments to the challenge of working for (rather than being) a first-time boss. As I scanned that “First-Time Managers” article, I quickly paused to consider some of the data cited there and as assembled by Harris Research. Of particular interest were the opinions of some nine hundred employees who volunteered the following insights into their experiences and thoughts when it comes to working for newly minted bosses:

  1. 41% of the employees were stressed or anxious about going to work.
  2. 34% wanted to quit.
  3. 31% wanted to change jobs/teams (i.e., managers).
  4. 31% had lost confidence in their company (and by implication, senior management).

That is some sobering feedback made even more troubling when you factor in the exorbitant cost of employee turnover. For instance, based on data that is less than one year old from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the all-in cost to replace a single entry level employee can range from $14,000 to $28,000. For more experienced and better compensated individuals, the cost grows exponentially. Thus, the all-in cost to replace your typical full-time exempt employee can easily climb to $176,000 for a single seasoned professional. At some point we begin talking about real money. Thus, organizations can pay a steep price for promoting someone into a supervisory role who is unprepared for the duties and responsibilities of leading a group – even when the team they are tasked with leading is small and their roles quite basic in nature.

Granted, there are exceptions. If someone has been fortunate enough to have worked for some highly effective leaders in their career, then some of those soft skills have probably rubbed off. Likewise, if someone possesses a high degree of emotional intelligence, the odds may be in their (and their peoples’) favor that they will quickly manifest the right sort of soft skills. But if the newly promoted manager lacks the requisite leadership and interpersonal skills to connect with and motivate their team, then one should not be surprised when employees apply for transfers or turn in their resignation.

I recognize today’s message might come across as a bit self-serving given what we do as consultants to assist clients with the identification and development of leadership talent. Nonetheless, the fact is most organizations are in the habit of promoting great technicians into supervisory roles. Their logic in doing so may or may not be sound. But this much I do accept as truth: a promotion tends to indicate someone was very accomplished in the role they are leaving, but it is no guarantee they will be successful in the job they are stepping into.

Soli Deo Gloria

“In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech” Titus 2:7-8a

J. Keith Hughey

Mobile: (210)260-0955
E-mail: keith@jkeithhughey.com
Web site: www.jkeithhughey.com

Transforming Potential into Unmatched Performance
Copyright 2023 by J. Keith Hughey. All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted for reproduction and redistribution of this essay as provided under the copyright laws of the United States of America. The entire early library of Monday Morning Musings issues may be found at www.jkeithhughey.com. Your comments are welcome and encouraged.

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