How to Transition from Co-Worker to Boss

Making the move from a co-worker to the manager of a department can be one of the most challenging situations experienced in the workplace.  Some former co-workers may feel resentful about your promotion, believing that they are more worthy of it. Others may have difficulty accepting that a former equal is now in a position of authority.

This shift can be a challenge for all.  As the new boss, you must take the lead in recognizing and mitigating any problems that may arise from the new dynamic, so that the focus remains on achieving departmental goals.  Here are some tips for transitioning smoothly from colleague to boss:

  1. Accept that your previous relationships with co-workers will have to change. You are no longer a peer and as such cannot be treated or behave as one. You are now responsible for setting goals, driving productivity and assessing performance.
  2. Take the time to become familiar with your new team of peers. Your promotion potentially will lead to you belonging to a new group of peers. Get to know them and build solid relationships with them. Take the time to understand their challenges and their opportunities. Explore how you can support each other’s success.
  3. Take the time to build your team. Because you have been a member of the team you now lead, it may seem unnecessary to undertake a team development process. However, with your role change, your team dynamics have also changed. Essentially, this is a new team and should be treated as such. Dedicating time to a team-building process will be crucial to your transition and your success.
  4. Connect with Human Resources for assistance and best practices and take advantage of any leadership training available in this regard.  Read up on leadership. Explore the difference between being an effective leader vs. being an effective manager. This would also be an excellent time to consider meeting with a career coach for help navigating this sometimes difficult path.
  5. Meet with each member of your department personally and early on to provide them with an opportunity to share their thoughts on your promotion. This way you can address what’s on their mind rather than have things fester.  This is a good time to discuss what each of you expects from each other in this new dynamic. Make sure you really listen to what is being said and are clear with your own needs.
  6. Ensure each member of your team understands their role in helping to achieve departmental success and the role you play in helping to ensure it, too. Explore how you can best support them and help them develop as professionals. Set out specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely goals and objectives.
  7. Be Fair and respectful. If you are being undermined by someone who is finding it hard to accept you in your new position it is important to demonstrate patience and kindness at all times while you take steps to resolve the issue.
  8. Do not allow your business decisions to be impacted by previous friendships or a desire to not upset someone. Some decisions are tough to make and they won’t always be popular. However, your job as a manager is to do what’s right for the team you lead, the department, your customer and the business as a whole.
  9. Never participate in any kind of gossip or venting with employees, even if you have done so before in your former role.  This is a practice that builds negativity in the workplace and others will be looking to you now to set a good example.

Remember, it takes time to build any kind of relationship and you are essentially building a new relationship here with each of your reports.  If you follow these tips you should find that the members of your team will eventually stop viewing you as their peer and come to accept your new position.  Good luck!