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Navigating from co-worker to manager

13 June 2017

You’ve landed the promotion – congratulations! So why do you suddenly feel so anxious about how your former teammates are going to deal with you as their leader?

Going from peer to manager isn’t always the smoothest path, and it can really set the tone in determining your success as a leader down the line. That may sound like a lot of pressure, but there are some practical ways you can enjoy a successful transitional period.

Understand that you’re beginning a new role

You haven’t just advanced your old role; you’ve begun a completely new one. That can be difficult to navigate, especially since you’re probably very good at your job and that’s partly why you were promoted.

Rather than utilising the skills and knowledge you’ve built up over your career to personally implement work, you’ll now be using your background to better manage the team responsible for those tasks.

You’re not here to make friends

It may sound harsh, but the dynamics of your work relationships will change. People who were previously your peers now need to learn to respect you as a boss, and that can be difficult.

If you have close friendships within the team, it’s worthwhile explaining that while you still value those relationships, things will look a little different in the workplace, whereas outside of office hours you keep things unchanged.

But you’re not here to make enemies, either

That being said, you don’t have to strive for ‘World’s Meanest Boss’. While your team is dealing with the changing dynamics, it’s important to show how much you value their work.

Do this by proving yourself as someone who listens and respects their opinions. You may even want to schedule one-on-one meetings with each team member early on, to establish the kind of reverential leadership you’re hopefully striving to achieve.

Tackle initial issues head on

While you’re working hard towards establishing yourself as a leader and demonstrating the value you want to add, you may still encounter issues. It could be a whole host of things, from someone not wanting to report to you, to a co-worker being bitter about not getting the promotion instead.

Don’t ignore these issues because you’re afraid of stepping on toes. It’s much better to approach the situation now so that they don’t continue to fester and eventually become worse.

And finally, be patient finding your unique leadership style

It’s easy to put pressure on yourself, to prove yourself to co-workers. But nobody becomes a perfect leader overnight, and it will take some time for you to work out the kind of style that works best for you (and your team).

During the transition from co-worker to manager, don’t be too hard on yourself. Be humble with your mistakes, continue to be agreeable to change and feedback, and over time you’ll leave no doubt in anyone’s mind as to why you were promoted in the first place.

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