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Development Review Integrative Literature Review: Increasing Retention and Success of First-Time Managers: A Model of Three Integral Processes for the Transition to Management

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Making the transition to management is one of the most difficult challenges first-time managers face. Organizations pay for the failure of first-time managers and benefit from their success. The purpose of this article is to challenge Hill’s (1992) argument that the transition to management involves two processes: “a process of learning from experience” and “a transformation of professional identity” (p. 121) and suggest a third process—building leadership potential. We also contend that transformative learning (Mezirow, 1991) is central to all three processes.
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Development Review
Human Resource
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The online version of this article can be found at:
DOI: 10.1177/1534484310386752
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2011 10: 26 originally published online 29Human Resource Development Review
Maria S. Plakhotnik, Tonette S. Rocco and Nella Ann Roberts
for the Transition to Management
and Success of First-Time Managers: A Model of Three Integral Processes
Development Review Integrative Literature Review: Increasing Retention
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HRD10110.1177/1534484310386752Plakhotnik et al.Human Resource Development Review
1
Florida International University, Miami
Corresponding Author:
Maria S. Plakhotnik, Florida International University, 11200 SW 8th Street, ZEB 312, Miami, FL 33199
Email: mplak001@fiu.edu
Increasing Retention and
Success of First-Time
Managers: A Model of
Three Integral Processes
for the Transition to
Management
Maria S. Plakhotnik
1
, Tonette S. Rocco
1
,
and Nella Ann Roberts
1
Abstract
Making the transition to management is one of the most difficult challenges first-time
managers face. Organizations pay for the failure of first-time managers and benefit
from their success. The purpose of this article is to challenge Hill’s (1992) argument
that the transition to management involves two processes: “a process of learning
from experience” and “a transformation of professional identity” (p. 121) and suggest
a third process—building leadership potential. We also contend that transformative
learning (Mezirow, 1991) is central to all three processes.
Keywords
transition to management, learning from experience, professional identity
Management is “the process of communicating, coordinating, and accomplishing action
in the pursuit of organizational objectives while managing relationships with stake-
holders, technologies, and other artifacts, both within as well as between organizations”
(Clegg, Kornberger, & Pitsis, 2005, p. 500). Management at all levels contributes to
the success of an organization. Lower-level management represents the frontier of the
organization, “where the organization interacts with its customers and suppliers, and
Integrative Literature Review
Human Resource Development Review
10(1) 26 –45
© The Author(s) 2011
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Plakhotnik et al. 27
confronts the realities and challenges of competition” (Fleming, 2008, p. 128). A pro-
motion to management involves increases in responsibilities, benefits, and status. The
individual promoted is no longer responsible for his or her performance only, but also
for the performance of the department and the individuals being managed.
Transition to a new role is a psychological process that requires time and involves
learning new behaviors, acquiring new perspectives, and dealing with stress, anxiety,
and alienation (Bridges, 2003). Ciampa and Watkins (1999) suggested that “the transi-
tion period is a time when impressions carry more weight than deeds and when inter-
personal skills and maturity matter greatly” (p. 97). First impressions are difficult to
undo. Therefore, the better impressions first-time managers create, the more credibil-
ity they build among their superiors and subordinates.
Not surprisingly, making the transition to the role of a manager is one of the most
difficult challenges first-time managers face. This challenge brings many dilemmas
that first-time managers may experience but not be prepared to address; they may also
receive inadequate support from the organization. As a result, first-time managers
reach their performance plateau within the first 3 months of their new job (Sutton, 2008),
and almost half of first-time managers fail (Ameson, 2005). Such turnover of first-time
managers represents a significant loss for organizations for at least two reasons (Somaya
& Williamson, 2008). First, organizations lose money because the costs related to
recruitment, hiring, and training of first-time managers and again for the replacement
costs of new employees who come to replace the first-time managers who failed. “These
costs have been estimated to be 100% to 150% of the salary of a high-performing
employee with unique skills” (Somaya & Williamson, 2008, p. 29). Second, organiza-
tions lose human capital investments as first-time managers take with them knowledge
and skills required of the jobs that they leave. In 2005-2006, companies lost almost
30% of their human capital investment because of employee turnover (Society of
Human Resource Management, 2007). On the other hand, a smooth transition into the
role of manager helps maintain organizational mission and performance (Van Maanen
& Schein, 1977).
Organizations pay for the failure of first-time managers and benefit from their suc-
cess. “Given the significance and difficulty of this first leadership test, it’s surprising
how little attention has been paid to the experiences of new managers and the challenges
they face” (Hill, 2007, p. 50). Most organizations are “overmanaged and underled”
(Kotter, 1990, p. 103). To succeed, organizations should seek people with leadership
potential and provide them many opportunities to explore and develop that potential.
However Hill (2003) found that first-time managers realized the need to be leaders
only toward the end of the 1st year. Realizing they need to be leaders and being leaders
is not the same thing.
The purpose of this article is to expand Hill’s (1992) argument that the transition to
management involves two processes: “a process of learning from experienceand “a
transformation of professional identity(p. 121) from an individual contributor to a
manager. We challenge the idea that these two processes are enough for a successful
transition and suggest a third process—building leadership potential. We also contend
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28 Human Resource Development Review 10(1)
that transformative learning (Mezirow, 1991) is central to all three processes. To expand
Hill’s argument, we first present the dilemmas faced by first-time managers as gleaned
from the literature. These dilemmas are important to shaping learning, professional
identity, and, we contend, leadership potential. Then we present transformative learning
theory, the three processes, and discuss the implications for research and practice.
Dilemmas of First-Time Managers
After the celebration of the promotion is over, first-time managers face the reality of
the transition to management. For some this is a welcome challenge; for others it is a
daunting experience. First-time managers assume that their new position will give them
more authority and autonomy, and they will no longer be burdened by the unreasonable
demands of others (Hill, 2007). Instead, some face dilemmas, including (a) misconcep-
tions about the new position, (b) unrealistic performance expectations, (c) poor support,
(d) changes in relationships with coworkers, and (e) more learning than anticipated.
Misconceptions About New Position
First-time managers have a “simplistic and incomplete” (Hill, 2007, p. 4) understanding
of their new positions. Misconceptions about the new position abound. A common
misconception is that being the boss means doing the subordinate’s work because the
subordinate is not capable of doing a task well. Doing someone else’s work seems
easier to first-time managers who were often excellent performers at the lower level
(Chella, 2006). Another misconception on the part of both the new manager and the
administration that promoted him or her is that star performers make competent manag-
ers (Walker, 2002) and develop a professional identity as a manager with the promotion.
When asked to describe what it means to be a manager, most first-time managers
begin by discussing management’s rights and privileges, but not its responsibilities
(Hill, 1992). They believe that being a manager means being the boss who has author-
ity and control and coordinates the work of individual employees and tasks at hand.
Instead of wearing one hat as an individual performer, first-time managers have to
wear seven hats, or responsibilities, alternating throughout the day: (a) administration,
(b) direction, (c) leadership, (d) people, (e) action, (f) high anxiety, and (g) business
(Gaynor, 2004). Administrative responsibilities include organizing meetings, prepar-
ing reports, and interacting with other departments. Providing direction involves capi-
talizing on employees’ knowledge, skills, and characteristics and utilizing available
resources, such as finances, time, technology, guidelines, and policies, to create an
effective and productive team. Leadership responsibilities refer to taking the lead in
determining the future of the organization in an innovative but careful and responsible
way. People responsibilities revolve around people-related issues. Action is doing the
work that cannot be delegated, for example, creating budget reports or reviewing
employees’ performance evaluations. High-anxiety responsibilities refer to such nec-
essary but challenging tasks as dealing with harassment and addictions, implementing
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Plakhotnik et al. 29
disciplinary actions, or helping employees’ to cope with deaths in their families. Business
responsibilities refer to putting it all together and working with the management team
to achieve the organization’s objectives.
Not surprisingly, embracing and appreciating these multiple responsibilities and
rejecting the simplistic misconceptions about the role of a manager commonly take at
least a year for a new manager (Glen, 2003). Once they assume their responsibilities,
first-time managers realize that being the boss means working interdependently with
their subordinates, superiors, and other stakeholders, building commitment among their
subordinates, leading the team, and implementing initiatives that can improve the per-
formance of the team (Hill, 2003).
Unrealistic Performance Expectation
First-time managers are expected to perform at the same level as seasoned managers
immediately on receiving the promotion (Ameson, 2005; Chella, 2006). Whether this
expectation comes from the first-time managers or their superiors or subordinates, it
is unrealistic because it does not account for time needed for transition, which includes
learning the basics of the new role, and for taking charge, which includes mastering the
new role.
During the transition or probation period, that typically takes 6 to 18 months, first-
time managers learn all aspects of their new role (Miller, 2006). However, supervisors
usually determine the success or failure of first-time managers within the first 3 months
(Watkins, 2003) and focus on first-time managers’ mistakes instead of providing
support and opportunities for learning. In contrast, the president of the United States
gets 100 days as a honeymoon or grace period and 4 years before the possibility of
termination.
The transition period provides a foundation for mastering the new role or taking
charge. Taking charge refers to “the process of learning and taking action that a man-
ager goes through until he (or she) has mastered a new assignment in sufficient depth
to be running the organization [or department] as well as resources and constraints
allow” (Gabarro, 2007, p. 106). Having studied 14 management successions, Gabarro
(2007) found that the taking charge process requires at least 2 years and occurs in five
stages: (a) taking hold, (b) immersion, (c) reshaping, (d) consolidating, and (e) refine-
ment. The duration of each stage varies and has its own tasks, problems, and dilemmas.
During the taking-hold stage, which lasts for up to first 6 months, first-time managers
deal with problems they think are important based on their prior knowledge and under-
standing of the new job. What first-time mangers learn in the taking-hold stage pro-
vides foundation for the immersion stage, which can take up to a year, and allows for
“deeper learning and diagnosis” (p. 25) of their responsibilities and current and poten-
tial problems. Based on the learning during the first two stages, first-time managers
enter the reshaping stage where they make procedural and structural changes in their
units or the organization, which might take another 6 months. The results of these
changes are evaluated and necessary corrections are made during the consolidation
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30 Human Resource Development Review 10(1)
stage that lasts for 3 to 9 months. New managers enter the refinement stage when the
job becomes routine and they are no longer thought of as new managers. Therefore,
when organizations unduly and unrealistically pressure first-time managers to take full
charge from the first day, they cause them to make mistakes.
Poor Support
First-time managers often face poor support from their organizations during the pro-
motion to management, preparation for the new role, and the transition period. Although
internal promotions may be part of an organization’s retention strategy and succession
plan, many organizations do not go through a very thorough screening process in pro-
moting employees to management (Belker & Topchik, 2005). Most organizations
promote individuals who they believe will become good managers based on their
performance in specific fields (Ayres-Williams, 1992). For example, technical orga-
nizations tend to promote their best technical workers to management (Biddle &
Roberts, 1994). However, the best performers do not always become good managers.
Being an individual contributor and being a manager require different skills. As Krantz
(n.d.) notes, promotions “can just as easily derail careers as enhance them. Ironically,
the very same skills that make someone appear to be an attractive candidate for advance-
ment become less important once they are promoted and must then manage others”
(p. 1). Lack of basic management skills, such as the ability to manage people, contrib-
utes to the failure of first-time managers. Therefore, if an organization does not go
through a rigorous selection process, those promoted to first-time managers may be
unnecessarily set up for failure from the start.
As Super (1990) notes, “success in coping with the demands of the environment
and of the organism in that context at any given life-career stage depends on the readi-
ness of the individual to cope with these demands” (p. 207). Even when the right per-
son is promoted to first-time manager, he or she often receives inadequate preparation
for the demands of the new role. The lack of preparation for the manager’s role is the
most frequently reported difficulty during the transition to management (Tobin &
Edwards, 2002). To facilitate first-time managers’ readiness to meet the demands of
the new job, organizations should provide clear job descriptions and performance
objectives as well as strong training and development.
During the transition period, first-time managers fail because of the lack of com-
munication, oversight, feedback, and guidance from their superiors (Ameson, 2005).
For example, the path from training to performance implies a learning curve, and
employees do not always leave training with skills they can readily apply (Owens,
2006). Therefore, first-time managers need feedback and guidance from their superi-
ors when applying what they learned in training to the situations in the new job.
However, 66% of organizations do not use performance-assessment tools (e.g.,
360-degree feedback) to evaluate the performance of first-time managers during their
transition (Nancheria, 2009). Also, organizations often neglect to prepare and com-
municate with the unit about the change in management. As a result, since day one,
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first-time managers may face an uphill battle and sometimes resistance from their
subordinates and colleagues.
Changes in Relationships
After the promotion, first-time managers face changes in relationships with peers,
subordinates, and superiors causing another dilemma. First, prior to the promotion, all
the interactions were with superiors or peers. Being an individual contributor requires
communicating with and meeting the demands of a manager, unless the employee is
in a customer-facing position and has to deal with customers. After the promotion, how-
ever, first-time managers have to communicate up, down, across, within, and outside
of the organization, and meeting the demands of many stakeholders. The demands of
these stakeholders can be conflicting in terms of the requests being made and the time-
frames required for completion.
Building relationships is “a prerequisite for learning what to do and how to do it
welland the main means of one’s socialization into a new role or organization (Korte,
2009, p. 293). The strength of these relationships also affects new managers’ ability to
learn from their job experiences (Hill, 2003). “Studies reveal that the No. 1 problem
first-time managers face is failure to build partnerships and foster teamwork” (Brown,
2006, p. 103). Unfortunately, 87% of the first-time managers experience problems
with their subordinates, and 66% encounter problems with superiors (Pearce, 1982).
Gabarro (2007) found at the end of the 1st year, three of the four managers who failed
had poor working relationships with at least two of their key subordinates and at least
two peers, and all four managers who failed had problems with their superiors. The
underlying problem was the new managers’ failure to develop a set of shared expecta-
tions with their key subordinates or their bosses.
The most challenging relationship change is with former peers who become subor-
dinates overnight and may be jealous or resentful (Straub, 1999), especially if they
competed for the same managerial position (Beagrie, 2004). First-time managers are
off to a bad start if they begin acting like the boss, issuing orders, and using their
authority in a big way (Belker & Topchik, 2005). Regardless of the first-time manag-
er’s behavior, some former peers perceive their transition to management as “transi-
tion to ‘becoming the enemy’” (Tobin & Edwards, 2002, p. 6). Former peers fall into
four categories: (a) leavers who quit for various reasons, (b) testers who actively chal-
lenge first-time managers’ style and expectations of subordinates, (c) passive resisters
who test the patience of first-time managers by disagreeing or pursuing their own
agenda, and (d) boosters who support first-time managers (Wallington, 2005). Building
relationships with subordinates who are older might be another challenge for first-time
managers. For example, older subordinates expect less effective leadership behaviors
from their younger supervisors (Collins, Hair, & Rocco, 2009). These lower expecta-
tions are also reflected in how older subordinates evaluate their younger supervisors.
In addition, establishing themselves as the youngest or newest members of the
management team may be a challenge for first-time managers, especially those who
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32 Human Resource Development Review 10(1)
have the huge job of replacing top-performing managers who were either promoted
or left the organization (Miller, 2006). First-time managers who relish being in the
spotlight and receiving credit for their work directly can be irritated by having to give
up some measure of personal glory to bring glory to their teams (Dotlich, Noel, &
Walker, 2004).
More Learning Than Anticipated
In making the transition to management, first-time managers realize that the knowl-
edge and skills that caused them to succeed in their previous positions and earned
them the promotion are inadequate for continued success. No amount of academic
preparation and on the job observation can adequately prepare someone to be a man-
ager (Gaynor, 2004; Hill, 2007). For example, one of the steepest learning curves in
the transition to management involves development of people-management skills
(Miller, 2006). One moves from being simply an employee who aims at individual goals
to a manager who cares for the needs of others, the subordinates and the team as a
whole (Miller, 2006). Consequently, the transition includes a shift from being evalu-
ated based on one’s individual performance to being evaluated for the performance of
the team (Saunders, 2004). This shift can be disconcerting and requires a huge leap of
faith (Dotlich et al., 2004). As Hall (2002) notes,
As an executive moves to higher levels of responsibility, he or she must learn
to change the basis of his or her self-identity away from individual contributions
as the basis for self-esteem and toward defining personal value and esteem
through the accomplishment of subordinates. (p. 162)
While climbing this learning curve and lacking necessary knowledge and skills,
first-time managers often miscommunicate, fail to delegate and motivate, and create
interpersonal problems (Miller, 2006). Addressing these problems and advancing on
the learning curve involves a change in values (Charan, Drotter, & Noel, 2000). First-
time managers who were star performers as individual contributors and valued as pro-
ducers find it difficult to value making others productive. First-time managers also
have difficulty accepting responsibility for the mistakes of team members and avoid
criticism by handling the more complex work themselves (Belker & Topchik, 2005).
These behaviors by first-time managers may have a negative impact on their relation-
ships with their teams.
Communication is very important in management, and first-time managers need to
learn how to communicate clearly with their superiors and subordinates. Those who
are not clear about what is expected of them and what they expect from their employ-
ees will fail. Communication between subordinates and superiors can reveal problems.
A lack of communication can cause first-time managers to make errors in handling
problems. These errors include being defensive when mistakes are made, solving
employees’ problems for them, and dumping problems that could or should be solved
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Plakhotnik et al. 33
by their department on a higher level supervisor (Knippen & Green, 1999). This reflects
a poor managerial style, which may result in a poor evaluation and failure.
First-time managers are also expected to facilitate learning of their individual
employees and the team. Facilitation of individual and team learning helps the organi-
zation create and disseminate knowledge to maintain a competitive advantage (Ellinger,
Watkins, & Bostrom, 1999). However, many managers do not view themselves as facil-
itators of learning, possibly because of their own lack of relevant skills, or a belief that
learning is a responsibility of the training department, or because the connection between
learning and performance is tenuous. Managers do not start seeing their responsibili-
ties as facilitators of learning overnight. Instead, managers’ transition into facilitators
of learning is triggered by their everyday work experiences, for example, employee
mistakes or positive outcomes of prior employee learning.
This new responsibility for team performance requires first-time managers to
develop the ability to think strategically. Strategic thinking includes a manager’s abil-
ity to conceptualize ideas, view the organization as a system within an external envi-
ronment, and examine the present, past, and future to suggest direction and take
advantage of opportunities (Goldman, 2008). Developing the ability to think strategi-
cally can be partially shaped by a mentor; however, most of this learning comes from
managers’ everyday experiences, including conducting strategic planning, leading a
new initiative, and being challenged by competitors or other colleagues in key mana-
gerial positions.
The experience of first-time managers during their managerial career can be described
as a journey that ends in different ways such as failure or a new manager can learn from
experience and develop a professional identity as a manager.
Hill’s Two Processes: Transitioning to Management
Hill (1992) followed 19 first-time managers through their 1st year and found that
becoming a manager involves two processes: Learning from experience and a trans-
formation of professional identity. We expand the discussion of these two processes
by grounding them in scholarly literature, both conceptual and empirical, from educa-
tion (e.g., Dewey, 1938; Kolb, 1984; Miller, 2000) and psychology (e.g., Ashmore,
Deaux, & McLaughlin-Volpe, 2004; Tajfel, 1981). This is followed by a proposed third
process and a discussion of bringing the processes together using the transformative
learning theory (Mezirow, 1991).
Learning From Experience
The transition to management involves learning from experience (Hill, 1992). Learning
from experience refers to one of the fundamental assumptions of adult education:
Adults learn through their work, social, familial, leisure, and other experiences (Miller,
2000). In other words, any human activity has a potential for learning. Dewey (1938)
suggested that to utilize this potential for learning, an experience should be connected
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34 Human Resource Development Review 10(1)
to one’s past experiences, represent importance for one’s future, and link the person
with his or her environment or situation.
Learning from experience is related to the concept of experiential learning (Kolb,
1984) that refers to a certain way to understand the process of learning or values that
underlie learning (Usher, 1993). Experiential learning is the process whereby knowl-
edge is created through the transformation of experience” (Kolb, 1984, p. 38).
Experiential learning theory (Kolb, 1984) suggests that adults capture their experi-
ences through two modes: apprehension (immersion into concrete reality utilizing all
the senses) and comprehension (abstract conceptualization that includes systematic
thinking and analyzing). To transform or process these experiences, adults rely on two
other modes: intention (careful observation of and reflection on others’ behaviors and
reactions) and active experimentation (direct and immediate engagement into an activ-
ity). Adults engage in these modes of capturing and processing their experiences in a
cyclical way. Their concrete experiences are followed by reflections that, in turn, lead
to analyzing and rethinking of the experiences; once the experiences are analyzed,
adults make implications about the next plan of action and later test these implications
by creating new experiences. For example, when facing the dilemma of changes in
relationships with coworkers, first-time managers might begin acting like the boss
(Belker & Topchik, 2005) and receive little support from some former peers, known
as passive resisters who constantly disagree and seem to pursue their own agendas.
After observation of and reflection on how their own superiors deal with passive resist-
ers (intention), first-time managers may decide to approach these subordinates like
friends (abstract conceptualization). They will try to act like friends with these employ-
ees to test whether this approach brings less resistance and more support (active exper-
imentation). If this approach works, first-time managers will incorporate it into their
repertoire of managerial behavior.
Professional Identity Transformation
Professional identity refers to a combination of beliefs, attitudes, values, and experiences
in which people define themselves in a professional role (Schein, 1978). Professional
identity is one of many social identities that a person has. Social identity is “that part
of an individual’s self-concept which derives from his knowledge of his membership
in a social group (or groups) together with the value and emotional significance attached
to that membership” (Tajfel, 1981, p. 255). The process of identification with a group,
which in this case is managers, consists of three components: cognitive, evaluative,
and emotional. The cognitive component involves one’s recognition of the group
membership (i.e., “I am a manager”). The evaluative component refers to some value
one decides to attach to this recognition (i.e., “I like being a manager”). The emotional
component refers to “an emotional investment” (Tajfel, 1982, p. 2) in the recognition
and evaluation. The emotional component consists of several elements: importance,
attachment, social embeddedness, behavioral involvement, and content and mean-
ing (Ashmore et al., 2004). Importance refers to the degree, high or low, to which an
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Plakhotnik et al. 35
individual, explicitly or implicitly, considers membership to a group important to his
or her self-concept (i.e., “Being a manager is an important reflection of who I am”).
Attachment and sense of interdependence refer to “the degree to which the fate of the
group is perceived as overlapping with one’s personal fate” (p. 90; i.e., “When I talk
about managers in this company, I say ‘we’ rather than ‘they’”). Social embeddedness
refers to the degree to which an individual’s social relationships and contacts rein-
force his or her particular social identity (“Most of my work relationships are with
other managers”). Behavioral involvement is the extent to which an individual acts to
express or implicate a particular identity (i.e., “I am actively involved in several local
and national professional associations of managers”). Content and meaning include
self-attributed characteristics (e.g., self-stereotyping), ideology (i.e., beliefs about
managers’ position, power, or prestige in the society), and narrative (i.e., a manager’s
personal story about the group and self as a group member).
Developing a new professional identity includes many strategies. Ibarra (1999)
identified three strategies that the participants used to adapt to their new roles as man-
agers: observation of role models, experimentation with provisional selves, and evalu-
ation of their new identity as managers. Observation included role prototyping, or
“discerning what constitutes a credible role performance” (p. 774), and identity match-
ing, or deciding what behaviors of their role models they can adopt. Experimentation
with provisional selves included trying to act like a manager, by imitating their role
models or searching for their own authentic managerial behavior. Evaluation of their
new professional identity included comparing their provisional selves with the type of
manager they aspired to be and refining their provisional selves based on the feedback
they received from others.
Angot, Malloch, and Kleymann (2008) examined the construction of the profes-
sional identity of six French management apprentices who participated in a manage-
ment apprenticeship program, where they took management classes a few days a week
while working as assistant managers at a large international corporation. The partici-
pants experimented with provisional selves, or enacted their new professional identi-
ties as managers, in four different ways: “dysfunctional and emotional suffering,”
“mechanical management and cynicism,” “technical management,” and “vocation/
aesthetics of management” (Angot et al., 2008, p. 417). Apprentices with dysfunc-
tional and emotional suffering attributed their experiences as assistant managers to the
reality and necessity of the demanding business world and felt they were victims of
that world. Apprentices who enacted their new professional identities with mechanical
management and cynicism perceived management as a simple game in which employ-
ees are actors, not individuals, that needed to be managed according to the rules of the
game. Those who saw their professional identities as technical management enacted
good social and technical skills but did not engage deeply in the corporation.
Apprentices with vocation/aesthetics of management brought their personal values
and self-reflection to their work while making an emotional connection to work.
Professional identity develops over time. For first-time managers, the development of
a professional identity of a manager includes a transition from a specialist identity when
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36 Human Resource Development Review 10(1)
one is responsible only for oneself to a manager’s identity when one is responsible for the
work of others. This transition requires change in attitudes and behaviors and requires
a serious psychological adjustment. Not surprisingly, first-time managers only begin
to embrace their new professional identity after 6 months on the new job (Hill, 2003).
The Third Process: Building Leadership Potential
Leaders who implement change effectively have four critical abilities: communication
and motivation, involvement, and coaching of others (Gilley, Dixon, & Gilley, 2008).
However, 76% of leaders “never, rarely, or only sometimes effectively implement
change” (p. 164). Therefore, Gilley et al. asked two questions: Why do leaders lack
these skills and how can organizations improve these skills in their leaders? We argue
that leaders lack these skills because they were never taught these skills when assum-
ing the role of a manager for the first time. In addition, they may not understand the
difference between a manager and a leader and, hence, are not ready to effectively
implement change. We also argue that building leadership potential in first-time man-
agers will help organizations groom effective leaders for more senior levels.
The terms manager and leader are often confused; however, leadership researchers
suggest differences between the two. In simple terms, “Managers are people who do
things right and leaders are people who do the right thing” (Bennis & Nanus, 1985, p. 21).
Legnini (1994) summarizes the distinction in a slightly different way: “Managers know
the right way to do things, but leaders know which are the right things to do” (p. 1569).
Managers and leaders differ in their attitudes about goals, work, and relations (Zaleznik,
1988). Managers set goals to respond to the needs of the organization, whereas leaders
set goals to reshape the direction of the organization. Managers approach work as
mediators or politicians who balance between a given number of choices or solutions,
whereas leaders approach work as artists who seek new solutions and alternate choices
that may involve risk taking. Managers approach their colleagues in terms of how they
do their jobs, whereas leaders try to assess the meaning of the assignment or project for
the employees.
Kotter (1990) asserts that management and leadership are two distinct systems
within an organization; none can replace or is better than the other. “Each has its own
function and characteristic activities. Both are necessary for success in an increasingly
complex and volatile business environment” (p. 103). Managers deal with the com-
plexity of the organization bringing “a degree of order and consistency to key dimen-
sions like the quality and profitability of products” (p. 104). Leaders deal with changes
in the organization to help the organization adapt to and survive in the competitive
business world. Managers and leaders perform these distinct functions by completing
three tasks: setting goals, bringing in people to accomplish the goals, and ensuring that
these people actually accomplish the goals. Managers complete these three tasks by
planning and budgeting, organizing and staffing, and controlling and problem solving.
Leaders complete these three tasks by setting the direction, aligning people, and moti-
vating and inspiring.
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Plakhotnik et al. 37
Transition to
Manager
learning from
experience
Building
leadership
potential
Developing
professional
identity
transformation
transformation
transformation
Figure 1. Integral processes for the transition to management
The managers’ role is to create stability, and the leaders’ role is to create change
(Barker, 1997). Managers create this stability by maintaining processes that have
brought success to their teams. Leaders create change by creating new processes to
bring success. If the leader’s role is to create change, “the function of management
regarding change is to anticipate change and to adapt to it, but not to create it” (Barker,
1997, p. 349).
Transformative Learning: Bringing
the Processes Together
During each of the three processes (i.e., learning from experience, developing profes-
sional identity, and building leadership potential), a transformation occurs. This trans-
formation can positively or negatively influence the success of the transition to a
first-time manager. This transformation involves learning, perspectives, and changing
assumptions (Bridges, 2003). Figure 1 illustrates the interaction between transformative
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38 Human Resource Development Review 10(1)
learning and the three integral processes (i.e., learning from experience, developing
professional identity, and building leadership potential). Transformative learning
occurs where learning from experience influences the development of a professional
identity. Transformative learning fosters the movement from the development of a
professional identity of a manager to building leadership potential. Transformative
learning occurs again when leadership potential is built affecting learning from new
experiences.
Transformative learning is triggered by a disorienting dilemma that leads to critical
self-reflection, discourse with others, and then to a perspective transformation on
which the individual acts. However, not all disorienting dilemmas lead to critical self-
reflection and transformative learning (Mezirow, 1991). Critical self-reflection is an
assessment of one’s assumptions, beliefs, values, mode of questioning, and meaning
perspectives. Discourse is dialogue focused on searching for a common understanding
and assessment of an interpretation or belief, during which the individual remains
open and objective (Mezirow, 2000).
Mezirow (1991) identified two points during the transformative learning process
where learners experienced difficulties while critically assessing their assumptions
and planning a course of action that may be threatening or demanding. Assessing
assumptions is difficult because this often calls into question deeply held values and
threatens one’s sense of self. Individuals must act on the basis of conditions dictated
by their transformed perspective (Mezirow, 1991, 2000). Action includes making a
decision, solving a problem, or changing behavior. This action may be immediate or
delayed or may result in a reasoned reaffirmation of an existing pattern of action
(Mezirow, 2000). Acting on the basis of conditions dictated by one’s transformed
perspective often involves overcoming situational, emotional, and informational con-
straints that may require new learning experiences to move forward.
Transformative learning is central to the successful transition to management.
Responses to the five dilemmas presented require learning, professional identity, and
leadership development. Learning after a dilemma occurs can be positive or negative.
Positive learning may involve steps in the transformational learning process to move
the new manager’s thinking forward in terms of transforming old relationships with
peers, realizing the development needs of subordinates to transform the work group
into a team, and understanding the many new responsibilities. We contend that the
process of being promoted requires critical reflection and discourse with other manag-
ers to successfully transform one’s professional identity from an employee to a man-
ager of employees. During this process, the new experiences can be the catalyst for
new learning and transformed perspectives or for failure. The five dilemmas may cause
first-time managers to experience a disorienting dilemma that disturbs their frames of
reference (Mezirow, 1991). Therefore, when these frames of reference are challenged,
first-time managers lose a sense of stability and coherence. They may begin to question
what they previously believed to be unquestionable about a particular managerial
behavior or about the entire new professional identity. Because frames of reference
shape values, this process of questioning the unquestionable is often emotionally
charged. Therefore, first-time managers may experience various emotions, including
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Plakhotnik et al. 39
anger, fear, guilt, and shame, or they could also respond with curiosity, eagerness to
learn, and openness to change. For example, when facing the same dilemma of changes
in relationships with coworkers and receiving little support from passive resisters, first-
time managers may rethink their understanding of their new role and professional iden-
tity. Dealing with the dilemma created by changing relationships might lead to a
reflection on another dilemma such as the misconceptions about their new role.
When facing these dilemmas, first-time managers engage in the process of learning
from experience and a transformation of professional identity from an individual con-
tributor to a manager (Hill, 1992). We suggest that learning from experience among
first-time managers includes experiential learning (Kolb, 1984) that leads to new behav-
iors and transformative learning (Mezirow, 1991) that leads to a perspective transforma-
tion. As a result, first-time managers adopt their new professional identity of a manager.
We also argue that in addition to adopting their new identity as a manager, first-time
managers should be provided opportunities to explore and build their leadership poten-
tial. These opportunities might occur when the new manager faces the disorienting
dilemma of realizing the need to be a leader (Hill, 2003) or the dilemma of carrying out
company policy when the policy is not the right thing to do (Legnini, 1994).
Implications for Research and Practice
The process of transitioning to manager involves the transformation of a person from a
subordinate position to one of authority over others who is responsible for the productiv-
ity of others. Figure 1 illustrates our conceptualization of this transition, which includes
three integral processes: learning from experience, developing a professional identity,
and building leadership potential. The promotion of first-time managers can result in
many costs to organizations associated with poor performance, turnover, and a long
learning curve. Performance improvement, role dysfunction, team management, and
other dilemmas first-time managers face are areas where human resource development
(HRD) can make a difference. Further research is needed on all aspects of the transition
to first-time manager. Specific research can be done on issues raised by the model.
Although the role of experiential learning in management development has been
researched (e.g., Dechant, 1999; Larsen, 2004), the role of transformative learning has
received less attention. Brooks (2004) suggests that HRD researchers should explore
the role of transformative learning in the management and leadership development
“where a change in level of conscious awareness is appropriate” (p. 219). We argue
that transition to management may create an environment that increases the level of
conscious awareness of first-time managers and, hence, leads to transformative learn-
ing. One of the possible areas of further research is to explore what situations during
the transition to management lead to new behaviors and what situations lead to per-
spective transformation of first-time managers. Because perspective transformation
includes critical self-reflection (Mezirow, 1991), qualitative approaches, particularly
phenomenology (Moustakas, 1994), would be useful. The initial phenomenological
study can be followed by another study several years later with the same participants
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40 Human Resource Development Review 10(1)
to examine how experiential learning and transformative learning during the transition
to management shape the participants’ management experiences after the transition.
This knowledge can help HRD professionals to foster both experiential and transfor-
mative learning among first-time managers.
How individuals identify themselves within an organization represents an impor-
tant component of their work life (Ashforth & Mael, 1989) and affects their behaviors,
attitudes, and feelings (Blader, Wrzeniewski, & Bartel, 2007; van Knippenberg, Dick,
& Tavares, 2007). Previous research has examined professional identity development
among first-time managers, for example, the use of different strategies (Ibarra, 1999)
and role models (Singh, Vinnicombe, & James, 2006) to adopt to the new identity as
well as the way in which first-time managers enact their new professional identities as
managers (Angot et al., 2008). What is missing from the literature is the exploration of
the role of those in management positions in the process of identity development
among the first-time managers. Developing a professional identity as a manager involves
cognitive, evaluative, and emotional components and takes time. However, no matter
how ready or eager one is to become a member of a group, he or she cannot enter or main-
tain their membership if other group members do not welcome or embrace him or her
(Tajfel, 1982; Tajfel & Turner, 1986). In other words, if those in junior, middle, or senior
management positions do not welcome and support first-time managers, the success
of their transition and job performance after the transition will decrease. An examina-
tion of the quality of a succession plan or mentoring programs established in an orga-
nization to support first-time managers will only partially reveal the environment. Both
qualitative and quantitative research designs can help examine more subtle ways in
which first-time managers are alienated or unwritten rules exist that create barriers for
first-time managers’ successful job performance.
Organizations can learn from the experiences of first-time managers, both those
who succeed and those who fail. HRD practitioners play a crucial role in ensuring that
first-time managers make a successful transition to management. HRD practitioners
can develop policies to increase the successful transition of first-time managers to expe-
rienced managers. We suggest an HRD framework that combines career development
(CD), training and development (TD), and organizational development (OD) with the
processes of the employee (see Table 1). Each intersection in Table 1 poses a question
to assist HRD practitioners in addressing the relevant issues for first-time managers’
transition to management. This framework can be used as a guide not just for the suc-
cessful transition of first-time managers, but also for promoting other employees
within the organization, for example during the promotion from a first-time manage-
ment to a middle or senior management position to learn how the organization can
provide adequate support for its first-time managers. The needs of first-time managers
vary depending on their prior knowledge, skills, attitudes, and experiences during the
transition to management. HRD practitioners must tailor their support to meet the
individual needs of first-time managers. Although there will always be some first-time
managers who fail, HRD practitioners can reduce this problem by reframing or exam-
ining the transition to management from multiple perspectives or frames.
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Plakhotnik et al. 41
Table 1. Transition to Management: HRD Policy and Procedures to Consider
Process CD TD OD
Learning from
experience
Does the employee have
a personal development
plan?
Are the employee’s
training and
development needs
a priority for the
organization?
Are policies and
procedures in
place to provide
first-time managers
opportunities to
learn from their
experience?
Developing of
professional
identity
Does the first-time
manager have a formal
or informal mentor who
can provide support
during the transition
to management and
beyond?
What are the new
and/or additional
training and
development needs
of the first-time
manager?
Does the
organization have a
formal or informal
reward system
for first-time
manager’s active
involvement in
the activities of
management?
Building
leadership
potential
Does this first-time
manager have the
knowledge, skills, and
attitude required to
succeed in this position?
What other training
and/or development
does this manager
need?
Are there barriers
to opportunities
to participate in
organizational
change initiatives?
Note: CD = career development, TD = training and development, OD = organizational development.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the authorship and/or
publication of this article.
Funding
The author(s) received no financial support for the research and/or authorship of this article.
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Bios
Maria S. Plakhotnik received a doctorate in Adult Education and Human Resource
Development from Florida International University, USA. She has authored and co-authored
publications that have appeared in several books and journals, including Human Resource
Development Quarterly, Human Resource Development Review, Adult Education Quarterly,
New Horizons in Adult Education and Human Resource Development, Race, Gender, & Class,
and New Directions in Adult and Continuing Education.
at FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIV on June 18, 2011hrd.sagepub.comDownloaded from
Plakhotnik et al. 45
Tonette S. Rocco, Ph.D. (The Ohio State University) is associate professor in the Adult
Education and Human Resource Development Program. She is a Houle Scholar, and a 2008
Kauffman Entrepreneurship Professor. Her books include Challenging the Parameters of Adult
Education: John Ohliger and the Quest for Social Democracy (with Andre Grace, Jossey-Bass,
2009; Winner 2009 University Continuing Education Association Frandson Book Award), The
Handbook of Scholarly Writing and Publishing (with Tim Hatcher, Jossey-Bass, forthcoming
2011), and a special issue Sexual Minority issues in HRD: Raising Awareness (with Julie Gedro
& Martin Kormanik, Advances in Developing Human Resources, 2009).
Nella Ann Roberts is the Chief Executive Officer of High-Impact Consulting Group, a results-
oriented company that offers consulting, human resource development, marketing, and research
services.
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... The main sources of toxic elements in the proximity of railway lines are steel elements, the wear of structural components, and fuel combustion in non-electrified lines. Freight transport (Plakhotnik et al. 2011) and anti-corrosive protection for steel ties (Ferdous and Manalo 2014) are sources of Zn contamination in soil. In a study by Radziemska et al. (2016), the average Zn content of soil was determined at 112.7 mg . ...
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The paper evaluates the accumulation of selected risk elements in soils and biological tissues caused by railway transport. Samples of soil, pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) bark and needles, hoof fungus (Fomes fomentarius L.) and red-stemmed feathermoss (Pleurozium schreberi L.) were analyzed for the content of Cd, Cr, Cu, Ni, Pb and Zn. The samples were collected in five sites (A, B, C, D, E each separated by 500 m) covering a combined distance of around 2 km along railway tracks (Central Poland). The geo-accumulation index (Igeo), single pollution index (PI), contamination factor (Cf), degree of contamination (Cdeg), potential ecological risk (RI), and the probability of toxicity (MERMQ) index were calculated to determine soil pollution with risk elements. Soil toxicity was assessed with the Phytotoxkit biotest which measures the inhibition of seed germination and root growth in Sorghum saccharatum L. The calculated indices and the results of the phytotoxicity biotest revealed the highest levels of contamination in the proximity of a road overpass (site D). The accumulation of risk elements in soil was strongly correlated with pollutant levels in biological tissues. Zinc was the most abundant element in biological tissues, especially in pine bark and feathermoss. Soil pollution indices, biotest results, and plant and fungus bioindicators play an important role in environmental assessments of railway transport.
... Supervising workers and gaining manager role experience (Huckman et al. 2009) typically entails acquiring knowledge on assigning tasks, providing feedback, and monitoring, motivating, coaching, and helping workers (Plakhotnik et al. 2010, Sias 2009) in an effort to foster performance (Borman et al. 1993, Easton and Rosenzweig 2012, Huckman et al. 2009, McEnrue 1988. With increased role experience, managers develop a finer appreciation for the difference between their supervisory role and what used to be their operational role as workers (Huckman et al. 2009). ...
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... Supervisory experience is a key driver of managers' ability to lead workers (Day 2001, Hill 2003, Plakhotnik et al. 2011. It enables managers to learn how to assign tasks, motivate, provide feedback, coach and help workers (Day 2001, Sias 2008, and ultimately foster worker performance (McEnrue 1988, Borman et al. 1993, Huckman et al. 2009, Easton and Rosenzweig 2012. ...
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The chapter describes how instructors can capitalize on student prior experiences and create opportunities for new experiences in the classroom to foster student learning in management education programs. The chapter provides an overview of research around experiential learning (Kolb, 1984; Kolb & Kolb, 2005), learning from experience or on-the-job learning by managers, and teaching techniques that have been shown to foster student learning in management undergraduate and graduate programs. The chapter focuses on experiences that could be created in-class or in the context of one course and does not discuss practices related to a program and curriculum design.
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When some managers take over a new job, they hit the ground running. They learn the ropes, get along with their bosses and subordinates, gain credibility, and ultimately master the situation. Others, however, don't do so well. What accounts for the difference? In this article, first published in 1985, Harvard Business School professor John J. Gabarro relates the findings of two sets of field studies he conducted, covering 14 management successions. The first set was a three-year study of four newly assigned division presidents; the second consisted of ten historical case studies. The project comprised American and European organizations with sales varying from $1.2 million to $3 billion. It included turnarounds, normal situations, failures, and triumphs. According to the author, the taking-charge process follows five predictable stages: taking hold, immersion, reshaping, consolidation, and refinement. These phases are characterized by a series of alternating periods of intense learning (immersion and refinement) and action (taking hold, reshaping, and consolidation). The study's results put to rest the myth of the all-purpose general manager who can be dropped into any situation and emerge triumphant. Understanding a situation and effecting change do not occur overnight, says Gabarro, and human variables such as managerial styles and effective working relationships make a difference.
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Training is a vital function for all organizations. However, determining the contribution of training is oftentimes an elusive task. This paper examines training's impact on organizational variables that have been shown to positively impact an organization's employees. Specifically, this paper investigates the relationship between training, job satisfaction, organizational commitment, organizational justice and turnover cognitions. Results from a sample of 218 employees from state local subdivision indicate positive relationships between training and organizational outcomes such as job satisfaction, organizational commitment and turnover cognitions. Further, organizational justice variables were shown to mediate those relationships.