The Inner Voices of Young Bosses

I love working with young managers. They’ve only just begun to hear from the Fraud Finder — the inner voice that whispers, “Today’s the day they realize you don’t really deserve this job.”

New managers think the Fraud Finder speaks to them because of their inexperience and youth. (Funny, I know veteran bosses who say F.F.’s voice still haunts them.) For some managers, F.F. is just a pest who keeps them humble. For others, it’s a demon that drives offensive and defensive management behaviors.

But let’s focus on the young managers. I say “managers” because they might not yet be leaders. (My simple differentiation: employees are required to follow managers; they choose to follow leaders.) Newly minted managers often tell me their biggest worry is supervising people who have many more years in the business than they do.  

The young supervisors feel inadequate and intimidated. And the old Fraud Finder stalks them. When they approach the veteran employees, F.F. whispers: 


  • “She’s been reporting since you were in college.”

  • “He’s won photo awards you can only DREAM of.”

  • “What in the heck can you teach her? She owns her beat!”

  • “Who do you think you are, questioning him about missing deadline when he’s done so much for so many years?”

  • “They think you’re so not qualified.”
What they don’t know is that the Fraud Finder isn’t foolproof. More often, F.F. is nothing more than the voice of the young manager’s own insecurities. So, let’s silence that voice and pay heed to what matters.

Here’s what those experienced employees are really thinking about the junior manager:


  • How well do you really know me and my work?

  • How much respect do you have for my skills and contributions?

  • Do you want to motivate me or manipulate me?

  • What do you stand for? How will I know?

  • What are you good at? How can it help me — and others?

  • Can I trust you?

  • What have you done for me lately?
Notice the “me” focus? That’s not selfishness, its just human nature. Managers — whatever their age — hold great power over people’s careers and happiness. It is their job to hold people accountable and help them grow. That’s done through a continuing series of transactions, day by day. When those transactions consistently pay off for both parties, a relationship grows. Simply put, employees are more likely to be team players — and followers — if they are confident that their managers know them well and have genuine concern for their interests.

Staffers recognize that young managers may lack the life experience and the professional experience they possess. They expect them to have a healthy respect for the topic they cover or the craft they practice, to be curious and interested, to be willing to learn about it — but NOT necessarily to be the master of all skills.

They want them to become expert in helping them do their best work. In removing obstacles to their success. In communicating, motivating, resolving conflict, providing the tools for their tasks and making the workplace workable.

The good news: There are young managers who are already succeeding at this. I see it in the feedback I read about participants in our New Leaders seminars. (They’re required to get detailed feedback on their leadership from staff.) Sometimes, staffers go out of their way to note that they’ve been in the business a long time — and describe their young manager as being among the best and brightest they’ve encountered.  

I could write about some of them, but I’d rather do a managerial thing: delegate. To YOU.

Why don’t you share some stories by e-mail about impressive young managers in your shop? On the record. Verifiable.

Tell me about young print, broadcast and online news managers who are doing it RIGHT. Note what they do, and how they’re doing things that are good management AND good leadership. Tell me why you CHOOSE to follow them. Sign your name to it so I can follow up.

I’m eager to turn those stories into a future column. We’ll recognize some good folks, and in the process, show other young managers how to become true leaders. (Heck, we might even silence a few Fraud Finders, too!)

Here’s where to reach me: jgeisler@poynter.org.

We have made it easy to comment on posts, however we require civility and encourage full names to that end (first initial, last name is OK). Please read our guidelines here before commenting.