The transition from engineer to manager is fraught with peril.

Sometimes, in spite of efforts not to do so, engineers end up becoming managers. And it isn’t a transition that every engineer easily makes. 

This new role — from being a “doer” to someone who manages others who are doing — is fraught with peril. Peril for you, if you are the one making the transition. Things will change. Other people will look at you differently and treat you differently. It’s not going to be the same!

To be effective in your new role, it is important to make other people like you. Here are some tips for getting others to like, trust, and accept you in your new managerial role:

Find the most senior employee in your group — no matter what their role or status — and win them over. To do this, you need to help them with something. No matter how big or small the task, getting this person on-board to tell others that you are good is crucial! 

Meet with everyone in your team or work group to get their input on problems, solutions, and concerns. Listen more than you talk. Make no promises but be sincere in seeking input. People like being asked for their opinions and being part of the solution to problems. Do the same thing with other managers who are at the same level as you.

Show you are willing to work. Put in the hours that show you work as hard as the other guy. And don’t forget, everyone likes someone who does things and doesn’t just tell other people how to do things. So, the new manager needs to be a doer and help put out the work that is required by whatever work group, team, department, or office he or she oversees. Being a good worker is always an important element of gaining respect from the troops.

Be very conscious of symbolism. Don’t immediately take a bigger office or better parking space if you can avoid it. It will do nothing but cause resentment. 

Promote the accomplishments of your team/department/office, and especially those of the individuals who work for you. Of course, this must be done appropriately, but there is nothing wrong with some sort of weekly or monthly reporting of facts and tasks accomplished that show what you and your people are getting done. Your troops will love you for it!

One last thought: Keep reading Civil + Structural Engineer magazine! We are here to help you, and we work hard each month to keep our content relevant and useful to people like yourself.

Mark C. Zweig