How To Manage The Peer-To-Boss Transition

Josh Didawick

Josh Didawick

HR Professional

Ambition can be a very good attribute in business. It can drive one to continue learning, reach for loftier goals, and often result in promotions and increasing responsibilities. What often goes unspoken are some of the difficulties associated with getting promoted. This is especially true when someone is promoted to lead or manage the team they were once on. This type of move is often called the peer-to-boss transition, and managing that change can be a major part of experiencing success in the new job.

Without a doubt, there are a number of benefits to being promoted from within a team. You have a history with the them and you know the people. It would take an outsider considerable time to get up to speed in many areas. You won’t necessarily have to spend as much time getting familiar as someone from the outside, but there is a good chance you will still be taking time getting comfortable in your new role, and the outsider brings a different perspective, which may be difficult for you to bring as an insider.

Perhaps the most obvious difference in the peer-to-boss transition is that you are now in charge. The relationship dynamics have changed somewhat. Sometimes these changes are real, other times they are perceived. There were certain things you could discuss with your colleagues when you were a member of the team that will be out of bounds in your new position. You will have to refrain from discussing other people’s performance or your concerns about them with their colleagues. In essence, your words carry a different amount of weight and authority. You have to respect your role and how it can affect those around you and err on the side of being professional and respecting other employees’ privacy through professional discretion.

In a peer-to-boss transition, oftentimes other members of the team were vying for that same promotion. Unfortunately, this can create animosity and resentment in the workplace. Recognize that these emotions are natural and the people that feel them are making choices about how they react to the situation. For your part, you may have to go out of your way to make sure those that feel slighted know they have a seat at the table and can discuss their concerns with you. Open up a dialogue with them if you can. Taking the approach that you understand they may not be thrilled at missing out on this opportunity but that you are excited to have them on the team and working with them can soothe hurt feelings. Additionally, you may or may not know the reasons you got the job over other people, but you can commit to helping prepare those around you for their next chance. Make a commitment to investing in the people around you to see them reach their own goals.

Another area that can trip up newly promoted supervisors is that they think they know what is going on when in reality there are things, to borrow from Donald Rumsfeld, they don’t know they don’t know. You will gain a different perspective and appreciation in your new job. As a line staff member, you probably had a certain number of concerns. In your new role, you have many of those same concerns, plus many more. Keep your eyes and ears open and be sure to take the steps to have a full situational understanding of where your team stands. Your boss is going to help with this for sure, but there are other stakeholders from whom to get feedback. Customers, other departments and your own team may be a few to consider. Listen to their ideas and be open to changes. You could be walking into a situation where your team was under-performing and you are expected to orchestrate a turnaround. As difficult as that sounds, think about if you are taking over the darling of the business, a high-performing team. It sounds ideal, but your charge is to take it to new levels and ensure that high performance is sustainable. While these scenarios are on opposite ends of the spectrum, they can both be challenging. Listen to your stakeholders, perform your own SWOT analysis and create a strategy that puts your team on a path to where it needs to go.

Even though you may know your co-workers, you might need to re-frame your relationship with them now that you are their supervisor. After all, you have more influence over their responsibilities and assignments, and will be monitoring their performance. Talk to them about their goals and expectations, as well as your expectations for them moving forward. Try to maintain a running dialogue with your employees focused on their progress and development.

Find out what resources are available for someone managing the peer to boss transition. Larger organizations may have formal development or mentoring programs to offer. Other organizations may have access to seminars, conferences or professional organizations that can serve as tremendous resources for such an important career change. In addition to a lot of the performance and interpersonal matters discussed herein, there may be more employment law and regulatory responsibilities to consider. For those that have not had any exposure to employment law and a supervisor’s responsibilities, it is best to gain a solid understanding early in order to avoid any avoidable mistakes.

Working toward and receiving that promotion can be rewarding, but the work does not stop there. Understand the peer-to-boss transition and how to effectively manage it so the successes just keep coming.

About The Author

Josh Didawick
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Josh Didawick

Josh Didawick is a seasoned HR professional and consultant with extensive experience creating and guiding organizations’ HR strategies, as well as coaching individuals committed to successful careers. He specializes in taking on complex organizational issues to affect positive change and high performance. For individuals, Josh helps them put their best foot forward when seeking that next career, promotion or milestone in the workplace. Josh has had several articles published and presented at conferences on HR-related topics.

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