10 Simple Steps to Succeed in People Management at the Workplace

BY Kathy Crosett
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New managers may panic or lose confidence when it’s time to take action in their new role. The title sounds great, and maybe the new office comes with a window. But at some point, the task of people management will be front and center.

How to Succeed at People Management

Every manager will develop their own style. But understanding how to carry out a few standard practices will help to build confidence. Perhaps the most important aspect to remember is that you are not an imposter.

Are you worried that you have never had an official manager title? Don’t be. Chances are you have acted in the role unofficially at some point in your life. Remember those instances to build your confidence.

You may have organized a neighborhood cleanup project or hikes for a local group. If your goal was to ensure that everyone enjoyed participating, you had the right instincts. Your team members will need guidance, support, and occasionally, correction.

Here are a few tips about how to develop your people manager skills.

Stay Humble

If you don’t stay humble, it won’t take team members long to realize that you believe you are superior. At that point, most team members will avoid you. And they certainly won’t be motivated to do their best.

You can escape that outcome by following the example of one of my long-​ago bosses. When he took on the job of overseeing hundreds of university support staff, he spent a day in each division.

For one day, he worked alongside of and ate lunch with the janitorial staff. He did the same thing with the electricians the next day. By the end of the week, he understood the problems they encountered on the job and knew their names.

They all loved him, because he proved that managers could always learn something from their team members. His example also demonstrated outstanding people management skills.

Listen Carefully

Team members want to share their concerns and successes with managers. When they don’t meet the goals that they helped to establish, they want to explain why.

Mostly, they’ll talk about surface level issues. They might even try to blame someone else for their failures.

The wise people manager will listen carefully to learn the underlying reasons. Their team member may not be particularly motivated to do this kind of work. Or they may not have understood part of the directions they were given.

Be Patient

Some of your team members may hold particularly challenging positions. Think of your customer service agents who take more than their share of abuse.

After being treated rudely all day, your customer service agent may need to vent. Be patient and lend a kind ear. Let them know that you care and that they are providing a mission-​critical service to the company.

Communicate Clearly

You will not always agree with everything your employees say and do. In some cases, you’ll need to address serious shortcomings in performance.

These situations call for superior people management skills. You must learn to be direct. In the long term, you are helping an employee when you identify areas that need improvement.

There will be pushback. It will be uncomfortable. But a good manager will stand their ground and understand this basic fact regarding people management: No employee wants to be told they need to work harder.

Remind your employees that your chief responsibility is to help them excel in their jobs and prepare for a long-​term career. In doing so, they need to know where they stand in relation to co-​workers and their output levels.

Resolve Conflicts

Few factors can derail a manager’s career faster than conflict-​avoidance. Managing people who squabble is a tall order. But you can succeed at this task.

As the manager, set the rules for how you’ll handle the situation. Just because two employees are screaming at each other doesn’t mean that you have to raise your voice.

You also don’t need to resolve a problem instantaneously. Ask each employee for their side of the story. Depending on the severity of the problem, you might ask each team member to come up with their own satisfactory solution.

If they can resolve the problem without your help, they’ve learned an important lesson in teamwork. Be sure to follow up.

Maintain Trust

If, at any point, you feel tempted to gossip about a team member or an employee in another department – don’t. Trustworthy people managers do not engage in grade school behavior. When you model professionalism, your team members will respect you.

Ask for Feedback

Some managers believe their team members must adapt to their style. Wise people and culture managers know to solicit feedback from their employees. Not everyone will be a fan of your work habits.

Surveying team members regularly indicates that you want and respect their input. They’ll feel that their jobs and opinions matter. To understand the work style differences between you and your team members, take a psychometric assessment and make necessary adjustments.

Show Empathy

Empathy comes naturally to some leaders. When they hear about a catastrophe, such as an employee’s car accident, they’ll ask if anyone was injured.

Other leaders might need serious people management training, especially those who ask about the status of report that is coming up. These leaders should practice what to say before they open their mouths and make a self-​centered remark.

Employees love empathetic leaders because they feel heard and cared-​for. Those good feelings translate into the willingness to work harder and stay with the organization.


Your employees hope that someday, with hard work, they will also become managers. Or they may want to take on more responsibility. Show them you believe in their capabilities by asking them to attend meetings for you.

Get Organized

In our Voice of the Sales Rep survey, respondents noted that their manager’s top weakness centered around being organized. 35% of reps claim that their manager needs help when it comes to running efficient meetings. And 34% reported that they had to wait for their manager to give them timely responses.

No manager wants to be accused of holding up the organization’s progress. The best way to fix this problem is to set aside time every day to prioritize tasks.

Going Forward

New managers shouldn’t feel like imposters. But they should take specific steps to succeed in people management in the workplace. The details in this post provide a good framework to ensure that your employees feel valued and motivated.

Photo by Alexander Suhorucov on Pexels.