‘Acting Manager,’ now what?

Q: I am an engineer for a mid-sized medical device company. Our manager was just mysteriously let go. I was told now I am the “acting manager.” I am not even sure what this means. Any suggestions?

A: Companies often try to elevate the most seasoned or talented employee when a new management role becomes available unexpectedly. You may never fully know all the details of your former manager’s separation. However, you have been placed in what could be a promising opportunity.

Roberta Chinsky Matuson, author of Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around, shares her expertise:

That means you are in charge until a replacement can be found. If you want the job, then I strongly suggest you do what I did over twenty-five years ago. Go in and tell your boss that you want the job. Ask him or her specifically what you need to do to secure this opportunity. Remind your manager of your qualifications as he or she may not realize that you have an advanced degree, special skills or other attributes that may be useful in this new position. If your boss provides a vague reply, ask for specifics in an appropriate and professional way.

If you are new to management, then I strongly suggest that you prepare for success. You do this by educating yourself on how to become the type of leader that has people following them when they turn around. I would also suggest finding a mentor who can provide you with guidance as you navigate this new territory. Lastly, ask when a final decision will be made regarding this position so that you aren’t “acting manager” forever.

Finally, I would also recommend asking how your responsibilities will change in this new role. What are the expectations? You want to ensure that you fully understand any new tasks or challenges. This is an opportunity for you… if you want it. You have to demonstrate that you want it.

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