Dear Scattered:

Join the crowd. You're not alone in feeling anxious and insecure about being moved into a bigger job. Plenty of competent managers harbor fears that their "inadequacy" will be found out, causing their careers to crash. The first thing to remember is that, as boss, you are dealing from a position of strength. So whatever you do, don't appear defensive, apologetic, paranoid, anxious, or panicked. To whatever degree you have those feelings, save them for your career coach or therapist.

And remember: As the boss, you are in the line of fire. Criticism will come in waves. You have decide wht is valid and what is pure sniping.

Making Your Own Judgment

Whatever you do, "don't determine your own sense of competence based on others' criticism," says the author of "Women's Burnout," Herbert J. Freudenberger, a New York psychologist.

That said, here's a plan of action:

First, find out how your product or function fits in the company's big picture. This means studying the company's mission statement.

If one doesn't exist, try to figure it out on your own. Determine if what you do is a direct bottom-line contribution, is vital to your bank's image, is customer-service driven, is of strategic importance, or is a combination of those things, says Eileen Kobrin, senior vice president with the Sequor group at Security Pacific Corp.

Be Aware of Your Context

Don't keep your head down and carry out your job without looking around to see how your work contributes to the company's objectives, she says.

And find out from your boss how your performance will be measured. If he doesn't have an answer, be prepared to say, "This is how I think I should be judged," and play up your strengths, says Mark Patten, a senior vice president with Norstar Bank of Upstate New York, Albany.

You can come up to speed by interviewing the key managers who report to you. In one-on-one interviews you can say, "I have things to learn from you and I appreciate and expect your support. If you were in my position, what would you do?"

And, you can let them know that one of the ways you will evaluate them is by how supportive they are of you efforts, says Dee Soder, a president of Endymion, a career strategy company for senior executives.

Think of Your Successes

One thing that managers have to learn: Let go of some of the detail. You are working at a macro level now. "The chairman of General Motors couldn't put a car together," Ms. Kobrin points out.

Though you do need a solid working knowledge of how the job gets done, remeber that you were probably chosen because of your management skills. If your superiors had wanted a technician to actually do the work, they would have put one there instead of you.

When the going gets really tough, take out your resume and think of all the successes you've had. Or, look at your childhood photo album and remember all the hard times you've survived.

Sometimes, you just need to turn it off. Learn to meditate or go out for a walk to clear your head.

And remember: by taking on more responsibility in the midst of a merger, you're a pioneer charting a new course. Anyone is bound to be a little unnerved by that.

In Two Weeks: A banker says: "I feel terrible each time coleagues get pink slips. I see them in the hall or cleaning out their offices and feel like dodging them because I don't know what to say. What is layoff etiquette at a time like this?"

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