How To Go From Being An Employee To A Manager

Getting A Promotion
Did you get a promotion? Photo by on Unsplash

It’s pretty cool when an employee rises within a company.

There’s an example that pops into my mind when I think about this.

The person started on an assembly line right out of high school. Worked their way up to various positions. Probably worked elsewhere on the line. Then manager. Then operations manager. Then executive.

It’s not a route that comes overnight.

It’s not an easy route.

Not everyone can or wants to take that route.

But you might find yourself in this situation right now. Or perhaps in the future.

The trick is knowing that what you did as an employee only partially prepares you to be a manager or executive.

Here are some tips for filling in the gaps.

Understanding People

This is probably the biggest challenge when you go from being an employee to being a manager.

When you’re an employee chances are that you were mostly responsible for tasks. You weren’t responsible for understanding people. At least not in every way that a manager is.

You might have had an incentive to get along with others. To understand their motivations. Maybe you had to work as part of a team in order to complete your tasks.

Or maybe you just didn’t want there to be conflict among your coworkers and yourself.

When you transition to management the challenge is understanding why people do things. And how people are different.

Now it’s your job not only to focus on the operation of your area of the company, but also the role people play in that operation.


I had a great boss at my last job. He went to school to be a teacher, but then took the job I had and moved on to management.

He was great at understanding people. His approve started with hiring. He looked at the culture of the company and hired people he thought had a high likelihood of fitting in.

It’s not as much about skill as it is about cultural fit. When you bring the right people on board. Ones that will work well together. You’ll set the company up for success.

Maybe they don’t get along all the time. Maybe they challenge each other in good ways.

But they have to share similar cultural values.


That boss also talked to me (and I assume) other employees about their life goals.

What they wanted out of life both on the personal side and on the career side.

What I learned over time is that my boss was doing this so he could find common ground amongst everyone. He was looking for ways to align the motivation of each person so they would be willing to work hard and to challenge each other to work hard as well.

And it could have been just about the working hard thing.

Lots of bosses will just yell and yell. Trying to get someone to work.

But taking the time to understand each person’s motivation and figuring out how to align that with the goals of the company is a better way to get the most out of people.

I told my boss that I was interested in learning how businesses operate. How to manage businesses. He showed me how my tasks contributed to the operation of the business. He put me on projects where I could see the workings of many areas of the company.

He knew I wanted to do those things and he knew that those things would benefit the company.

Looking For Help

Understanding people and learning how to manage might be entirely new to you.

And that’s okay.

Some of the best bosses I’ve had have been humble and curious. They realize that they don’t know everything and they look for information from all sources.

That’s actually an interesting thing about employees and managers. It’s definitely not always the case, but I’ve run into quite a few employees that are know-it-alls and I’ve run into a lot of good managers that are very curious and willing to learn.

You’re probably really good at the task or tasks you’ve done as an employee. But now it’s time to let go of that mastery and focus on learning about people.

A great way to do that is to find someone that can provide a little mentorship type role for you. Someone that has been a manager and has had success (along with challenges).

See if they would be willing to answer your questions. See if you can meet with them to discuss questions.

A way to give back might be to find a cause that person is passionate about and contributing your time to help them while they provide the mentorship to you.

Less Individualistic

We all have individual motivations. It’s human nature.

But in business it seems that employees tend to be a little more individualistic than managers.

Managers have to be a little more focused on what’s good for the business.

Obviously there are (great) employees that put the company ahead of themselves.

And there are (bad) managers that focus only on what’s good for themselves.

As a manager, you may need to change your outlook a bit. You may have to focus more on the company if you haven’t done so already.

You can look at it this way, the success of the company is success for every stakeholder. That includes all the employees. As a manager, you have a responsibility to your team. When the company does well, they do well.

That’s the outlook you need as a manager.


A final thought here is on direction. It’s something your employees want and need from you. You don’t necessarily need to give them step-by-step instructions on how to reach a goal, but they will look to you for clear goals. People like to have something to work toward. It’s your job to provide that direction.

Going from being an employee to being a manager is exciting. But obviously there is more and different responsibility. Hopefully the tips in this post can help you make the transition so that your next step is enjoyable and fruitful for you and for your organization.

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