Handling the Transition from Co-worker to Boss

office culture

Author:Kathryn Pizzurro

You all went through employee training together.  You shared coffee breaks, lunches and the stress of meeting deadlines.  But, congratulations!  Your hard work was rewarded, and you were just promoted!

Welcome to the Dark Side.  You are now the boss.

At some point in your career, you may find yourself in the awkward position of managing the very same employees that were your co-workers just the day before.  The very same people you bonded with over critiquing management decisions, and who opened up to you about their low pay and the customers they dreaded are now your responsibility.

But, this is what you worked hard for, and a necessary step in your career path.  Your first steps in this new role will now set the tone for your management style, and quite frankly, your success.

First, face the fact that the dynamics have changed.  You now know your office mates’ salaries and can see the quality of the work they produce.  That alone could make things uncomfortable.  There might be a bit of animosity among your former group, as well.  Why were you promoted and not them?  Imagine how you would have felt if your co-worker was promoted over you; and, be sensitive and humble in your professional success.

Then, take a step back.  Look at your group from the manager’s perspective for the first time.  What does each team member bring to the table that you don’t have?  What talents does your team have that may not have been recognized earlier?  These need to be highlighted and clearly tapped into. You also need to be honest with yourself – as well as your employees – about what is lacking in the group, and put together a plan to address it. No longer are you being judged on your own personal productivity. You are now responsible for the group’s productivity, and where, as a manager, you can lead them.

You now also have the unique perspective of having “been there,” and understanding the challenges of your employees’ jobs.  Put your experience to the overall benefit of the group and make the changes you thought would have helped you in your former position.  Now that you are a manager, your role is to set a high bar for your group and give them the tools to meet goals and challenges.

Does there need to be more of a professional separation in your individual relationships?  Sure.  You can’t expect to remain a fixture in the lunch table chat sessions; however, you still need to keep in touch and remain approachable.  Just like any good boss, feedback needs to be honest and often.  Go the extra mile to ensure your team knows they can come to you with issues, concerns and new ideas; yet, give them a little more space.  Everyone needs to vent without their boss overhearing.

The overall test really lies with you.  Your job as a manager is not to be a “friend.”  Your job is to ensure that the resources you have are best utilized to the overall benefit of the organization, for the short term, and the long term. Your success really lies with the success of your team.  If you firmly relay that message in both your words and actions, good employees will support you – ultimately leading to the achievement of their goals.

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