One of the challenging situations that I dealt with as a supervisor was making the initial transition from being peers with my coworkers to being their manager. While taking on this type of role was exciting, I was also aware that it meant there would be a shift in the interactions with my colleagues, especially those now reporting to me.
The following are steps to help make the switch from peer to manager as smooth as possible:
- Be confident in your abilities. When you are promoted from a team of peers, it is easy for others to question the decision or harbor resentment. The best way to overcome these sentiments and garner respect is to lead with conviction. Your new staff will need this in order for the team to succeed as a whole.
- Meet with your team. One of your first tasks should be to meet with everyone you will be overseeing. Arrange one-on-one conversations to make sure everyone understands his or her role in the department, including exact responsibilities, what your expectations are and how they differ from the previous manager’s as well as how accountability will be measured.
- Act professionally. Understanding the daily duties of your new position is the easy part; the subtleties of your position are often harder to gauge. For example, is it appropriate for you to go out with your team after work? Are you allowed to joke around with colleagues like you’ve done in the past? There may be no standard answers for questions like these, but you will definitely need to set new boundaries as a manager.
- Treat everyone equally. You may be closer friends with certain coworkers than others, but as everyone’s supervisor, you must treat all team members with the same respect and concern. Your responsibility is to ensure every employee contributes productively to the organization, so delegate projects fairly and ensure that everyone’s workload is reasonable.
- Be firm when necessary. Despite your best efforts, some employees may test your authority by ignoring directives, missing deadlines, or being late to work or meetings. Not only should team members be aware of expectations, but performance issues also need to be confronted and documented as soon as possible. It may be tempting to ease up on the rules, especially for coworkers you have worked with for a long time. Doing so, however, will only encourage the type of behavior you are trying to eliminate.
- Reach out. No matter how difficult your role as manager may seem, you are not the first person to deal with these issues. There are probably many within your company that have also had to navigate new relationships with fellow employees after moving into a manager role. Connect with them about how they overcame these obstacles and what they do on a regular basis to handle any lingering issues. You may also want to attend a webinar or training that focuses on this specific topic.
Becoming a manager is a huge transition, and overseeing those who were once your peers is a daunting challenge to face. Success or failure in this regard will have a lasting impact on your ability to lead. Show your staff that you care about them as people, and chances are they will be loyal, hard-working and invest in your team’s long-term goals.
Jeremy joined Empathia (then NEAS) in 2007 as Manager, Client Care Services, then became an Account Manager/Sales Consultant in 2012. He is also a certified wellness and tobacco cessation coach. Jeremy has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a master’s degree in Organizational Management. Prior to joining Empathia, he spent 14 years in the EAP industry in a variety of roles with another behavioral healthcare organization. Jeremy enjoys reading, photography, music, and spending time with his wife and daughters.