The Best Ways to Manage an Employee Striving for Management

Every organization has them: The employees who were probably bringing shiny apples to their teachers in elementary school to try to win favor. As adults, these are the employees who are vying to become managers themselves, trying to learn everything they can to lead their own team someday and turning every opportunity into a chance to prove themselves. 

There isn’t anything inherently wrong with this ambition — it should be rewarded when done correctly — but it could make for a tricky management situation for their current leaders. 

Luckily there are ways to manage and help shape employees who would someday like to be your peer. 

  • Establish trust and respect.

    Lead by example and model good behaviors, including the building of confidence in each other and trusting in each other’s abilities and thoughts. Show the employee that you want what’s best for them and to support their efforts, but gently let them know if they’re heading in the wrong direction. Show that you believe in them by listening to them and treating them as an equal. 

  • Talk about their ambition and goals.

    Employees might feel like they have to hide their career ambitions from their current manager because it might create a conflict or friction. By opening up that line of communication, you’re showing that you can be a mentor, someone who can provide advice and, again, leading by example by pulling back the curtain and being supportive in their efforts. 

  • Create learning opportunities.

    If you have regularly scheduled standing meetings with this employee, use them to go over the activities and events of the past week and ask probing questions about what happened. Provide your thoughts and feedback and ask for suggestions or ideas on how things could be done differently or what worked and what didn’t. Offer your own perspective on why things happened how they did. Make it clear that there are no repercussions for criticisms as those thoughts will help you learn and be a better manager too. 

  • Encourage training and professional development courses and activities.

    If your company offers professional development opportunities, make sure your employees know they exist and how to access them. Make it clear that this isn’t mandatory but that the company benefits as much as the employee as they gain new skills, bring in new ideas, and learn to think more creatively. These courses are available as an investment in the employees, but if they’re not utilized, no one benefits. 

  • Give them the chance to test the waters.

    An employee who feels like management is in their future should have the opportunity to try out their skills before it’s a permanent shift. Let those employees who express interest in moving up test themselves by running a team or leading a project, with a group of their peers assigned to follow their instructions. Make it clear that you’re available for assistance and guidance, but they’re running the show. No one is an expert or skilled leader on the first day, but small chances to practice those skills and utilize those tools will make for an effective manager one day. 


While it might be difficult to get behind an employee who clearly wants to move up in their career, know that their success as a leader will also reflect well on you and your leadership and managerial skills. Set a good example and teach them to fly! 

If you’re looking for new employees to be team leaders and managers-in-training, contact Debbie’s Staffing. We have great candidates just waiting to join a team like yours! Call us today, and let’s get to work. 

Debbie's Staffing