How To Manage Former Co-Workers

Robin Schwartz

Robin Schwartz

Professional Human Resources (PHR) Certified

After years of hard work, you’ve finally received the promotion you deserved. In your new role, you’ll be heading your current team in a management capacity. This means now supervising and managing all your former co-workers.

There’s a lot to consider when transitioning to a management role over those you used to work side-by-side with. Too often, there are interpersonal pitfalls that come up when one member of a team has been selected over others for a promotion.

To be successful in your new role and accepted by your former colleagues, it’s important to plan your management strategy for the upcoming change.

Create Boundaries For Personal Relationships

It’s not uncommon that we develop relationships with some of our co-workers that extend past the hours of the office. This might be a regular happy hour office buddy or someone you’ve become extremely close to personally. When a new manager is known to have a strong personal relationship with a (now) employee, it’s important to create boundaries at work for the sake of fairness.

If you suddenly find yourself supervising someone you’re very close to, have an honest conversation with him/her about your new role. Someone you’re friendly with should understand that your new position will require to appear (and be) unbiased.

If you’re only ever eating lunch or sharing inside jokes with one employee, the other members of the team will quickly notice.

Make sure you set clear boundaries in your new professional relationship. You should interact with this person the same way you do with all other members of your new team when at the office.

Discuss Expectations

Take the opportunity to sit down one-on-one with all your new employees and provide them with what your expectations are for employees, the team, and their position. Every manager’s style is different so it’s important to address any processes that might be changing with you in charge.

Example The last manager may not have minded if people came into work 5 or 10 minutes late. It may your expectation that everyone is at their desk on-time and ready to work right at 8:30am. Your team can’t know what is expected unless it’s communicated to them.

You should also give your employees the opportunity to talk about what their expectations are. It’s completely fair for employees to hold their managers to a certain standard. Set yourself up for successful by being sure you know what your employees anticipate from you.

Giving them a chance to talk about what they want and need from a new manager will also go a long way in easing your transition from peer to supervisor.

Clarify Roles

Once you’ve accepted the promotion, make sure understand what authority your role carries (i.e. hire, fire, disciplinary, etc.). It’s important that both you and your employees understand what your role entails. You also want to completely understand what is expected of you from your supervisor.

Taking over a team is a good opportunity to sit with your new employees and review their roles and/or job descriptions. Oftentimes, these are out of date or generic in nature. Even if you were formerly a member of the team, talking to each employee and understanding what he/she sees his/her role as will help you determine if there are any overlaps or gaps in duties. It may also help you determine who is working at a much higher level than his/her role requires.

Remain Professional and Equitable

We don’t always like everyone we work with. That’s especially true the larger the team you’re on. Managing former co-workers means you have to get past any negative personal feelings you have about someone on your team and judge them by the same standards as the rest.

One of the ways to ensure you succeed as a manager is by not showing bias or favoritism in the workplace. This works in the reverse as well. If team members see you treating an employee with more contempt or hear you bad-mouthing them more often, your professional reputation could suffer and you may not receive the amount of respect you think you’re owed.

It’s important to remain as equitable as possible when it comes to your staff. What you permit for one, you should be able to permit for all.

Example If one employee is permitted to work from home once a week, consider offering all employees an alternate work schedule that benefits them. When it comes to salary and raises, equity plays a huge part. If you base monetary incentives off of performance rather than person, you should succeed as their manager.

Seek Support

Be aware of any shortcomings you may have and seek out trainings or workshops that help you become a better leader. Talk to your company HR about what processes, procedures or materials managers should be aware of.

Employees will expect their managers to be able to help them or direct them in all matters work related. Know who to ask for help when necessary and your team will feel more comfortable relying on you.

About The Author

Robin Schwartz
LinkedIn

Robin Schwartz

Robin Schwartz is a PHR certified HR professional with a broad range of expertise including recruitment, performance management, employee relations and talent management. She leverages her years of experience in HR to bring functional change to organizational leadership and direction to management structures and employees. Robin aims to empower the employees and managers she works with by providing coaching and counseling services.

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