You Have to Manage Your Former Coworkers. Now What?
Categories: Career

You Have to Manage Your Former Coworkers. Now What?

It’s a common scenario: You’ve worked hard, proven yourself and the higher-ups have noticed. Drumroll… you’ve been promoted! Then you realize something. Your peers and friends who you’ve been in the trenches with, bonding over the ups and downs of work, are now your direct reports. You want to quickly grab your work BFF and tell her what’s going on, but you can’t — she’s affected by this too. Going from buddy to #girlboss can be challenging for any manager, let alone a new manager. Take a deep breath and follow these tips.

1. Address the elephant in the room (carefully).

There has been a cosmic shift in hierarchy among your peers. How you handle the communication of your new role is vital to preserving the morale of the team. First, you want them to hear from you before any company-wide email or announcement is deployed. Feeling out-of-the-loop may only strengthen potential resentment.

The best tactic, depending on the logistics of your specific situation, would be to gather your new direct reports in a private meeting or lunch to deliver the news. Keep the message clear, direct, simple and relatable. You’ve been promoted; you’re excited about this opportunity and you know that this might create some awkward situations based on your current relationships. Don’t overwhelm them with too much detail. Let it all sink in.

2. Listen up.

After the news breaks, schedule a follow-up meeting with your team. Invite them to share feedback with you prior to the meeting about what they do or don’t like about the current processes. These may be gripe sessions, and that’s okay. They need to understand that change won’t happen overnight, but that you’re in charge of being this change agent.

3. Establish your confidence and authority early.

Begin this meeting by letting the team know their feedback helped inform your vision for the department. Talk about priorities, any responsibility and procedural changes (who is now doing your old job?) and your ideas for the best way for your team to work. Do you have any new expectations for the team? Are goals changing? How is your role changing? Think of this as Becky-as-the-New-Boss 101. Your tone is crucial here: Be confident but humble.

4. Create boundaries.

Don’t let your former relationships with coworkers cloud your judgment. Expectations must be the same for all your employees, and you need to establish early on what is acceptable behavior. If someone is complaining to you about company policy, say, “Because I am your boss now, I need to know if this is something you’re looking to me to provide a solution for.” Avoid granting special privileges or breaks. You need to establish yourself as their leader in a graceful but firm way.

5. Find more work friends.

The truth is, you may not get invited to happy hour anymore. Or, if you do, there may be an awkward vibe in the air. It’s natural to feel lonely in this new role, straddling worlds between management and peers. Find mentors or other managers who have been in your situation.

6. Don’t forget where you came from.

The best way to enroll your new team members is to prove that your unique perspective — understanding what it’s like to be in their shoes — and clear vision for the future is the best thing for everyone. That you’re all still on the same team — you’re just leading the charge.

Got any advice for managing friends? Tweet us @BritandCo and let us know!

This post was previously published on Levo League by Kathleen Harris.

(Photos via Getty)