Got promoted? How to manage your former colleagues

By Robert Half on 19th February 2015

If you're an ambitious professional, the chances are you'll be looking for career development opportunities wherever they grow - external or internal. While moving to a new organisation is often the quickest way to progress, it always makes sense to keep an eye out for in-house positions too. You might be able to secure a promotion to the management team, allowing you to kick on with your career with your current employer.

When a senior member of staff moves on, or the directors decide to expand a department, a new job may be created at a higher level in the organisation. If you're skilled enough to be the selected candidate, you'll benefit from a new challenge, increased responsibility, higher pay and the chance to bolster your CV. However, you will need to know how to manage your former colleagues who may have been your friends.

Having become your colleagues boss after being promoted, you may be presented with some challenges. From trading stories over tea, you might be telling them to stop wasting time in the kitchen. As you develop your career at management level, it’s important to get the transition right and know how to manage a team. This includes being sensitive to others and acknowledging their concerns, whilst also demonstrating strength and asserting your authority. After all, if you can’t form a new relationship and you are unsure on how to manage your ex-colleagues, you may find yourself sitting back where you were before, chatting to your colleagues.

With that thought in mind, here are a few tips to read on how to manage former colleagues after being promoted:

1. Take a step back

You don't have to stop associating with your former colleagues, but the nature of friendships may have to change. As you're the person who now assigns work and oversees responsibilities, you have to treat everybody equally - you can't expose yourself to accusations of bias. Have a quiet word with your former peers if necessary to explain the situation. They should understand that you need to treat them differently.

2. Speak to each employee

Some of your team members may have applied for the promotion you earned, and be disappointed that they weren't chosen for the management role. They may even feel a certain amount of resentment towards you. It's important to have an open and frank discussion with each employee, to find out what their real feelings are and take the time to get honest feedback. The focus has to be on finding a way of working together effectively moving forwards.

3. Undertake training

If this is your first managerial role, you may benefit from training or coaching tailored towards employees moving into senior positions. Your organisation may have programmes in place designed specifically for individuals joining the leadership and management team.

4. Be open-minded

You may have a clear idea of what your team members are capable of, and what they aren't so good at. But it's important that they are given equal chance to impress and to show you what they can do. Some employees may have hidden skills that the previous manager was unable, or unwilling, to harness and utilise. If you can unlock these talents, you may have a more motivated team and a higher-performing unit.

5. Try to help employees

Is there any way you can improve things for your team members? Perhaps you can give them more of the tasks they enjoy, or find additional resources to help them do their job. Or maybe you can assist them with training and development, helping team members to develop their individual careers. If employees feel you can make their life easier, or better, they are more likely to accept you as their boss.

6. Show your strength

You need to prove to the team that you've got the skills, experience and all-round ability to manage them, both individually and collectively. If you show weakness at the start, you may find it difficult to get people rallying behind you. It's important to outline a clear vision for the future, to display your motivational skills and communicate clearly. Otherwise, you may find your team taking longer breaks to make tea and are less inclined to go the extra mile for you.

In summary

Moving from colleague to manager is never going to be easy. But knowing how to manage your former colleagues once you've been promoted will make a difference to your success. If you take the necessary steps to dispel the concerns of your team members you should be able to build new relationships with the people you used to work alongside.

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