Who’s the Boss? You!

 Who’s the Boss? You!


by John Laudenslager

Congratulations! You’ve just earned a well-deserved promotion to a management position. That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that now you’ll be supervising others, including your former co-workers.

How do you make the best of an awkward situation? You obviously want success for yourself, your team and the company as a whole.

First, build upon your “brand equity.” You are where you are today because of your work ethic, your proven results and your ability to work well with others. While you probably already have established credibility with your peers, you now need to establish your authority with them (without coming across as pompous or condescending).

Take Small Steps

One way to establish authority is to demonstrate your decision-making ability. This will showcase your leadership skills.

However, don’t make wholesale changes until you’ve been in the position for a while. Start by making smaller decisions, then work your way up to decisions that will have a greater impact on the organization.

Be Prepared for Roadblocks

Your co-workers, even those whom you considered your friends, could be jealous of your promotion. If others were vying for the same position, they could feel even more slighted. You know your office dynamics best, and you can employ strategies to build a cohesive team. As they say, keep your friends close and your adversaries (“enemies” seems too strong a term here) closer. Assuming these individuals are worthy, give them increasing levels of responsibility. Let them know you value their contributions, and that their efforts will be recognized in the long run.

Following are a few tips on how to manage these new workplace relationships, from the Society for Human Resource Management:

  • Separate personal and professional relationships. You don’t need to cut all ties with your co-workers who are now subordinates. You can remain friendly with them, but you must set boundaries. Let them know, under no uncertain terms, that their friendship has no impact whatsoever on your decisions at work. In order to avoid potential conflict, you may want to limit or curtail after-hours socializing. If you continue to socialize, stay away from work-related topics.
  • Let former peers know that you take your position seriously. You may be tempted to use humor to diffuse a difficult situation or discussion, but this can undermine your effectiveness as a manager. A gentle but firm management style is a great way to earn respect.
  • It goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: Treat all employees equally. You don’t want yourself — or your company — to receive any claims of discrimination.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Chances are that other managers in your organization once were in a similar position. Rely on them for advice.
  • Explore opportunities for management and leadership training, either through your company’s human resources division offerings, or through an advanced degree.

How can you measure your effectiveness as a manager? Ask for feedback along the way. Have a one-on-one with each member of your team upon your promotion, and at regular intervals throughout the year. By doing so, you will send a message to your subordinates that you value their opinions. This also shows that job reviews are a two-way street. There’s room for improvement at every level of the organization.

John Laudenslager is an EMBA recruiter at the University of Texas at Arlington.


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