Out of all your coworkers who applied to a highly-coveted management position, you were chosen. So where does that leave your relationships with them now that you oversee the entire team?
Here’s what to keep in mind when managing former coworkers:
Don’t act like nothing happened
Whether your former peers (or you) like it or not, your dynamic is about to change — you owe it to your team to show them that you understand that.
Levo says you that should be the one to tell them the news, “before any company-wide email or announcement is released” because feeling like the last one to know the news could “strengthen potential resentment.”
Obviously, you’ll need company approval to make any kind of announcement, but if possible, you should tell your new employees privately, and you should “keep the message clear, direct, simple, and relatable: You’ve been promoted, you’re excited about this opportunity, and you know that this might create some awkward situations based on your current relationships. Don’t overwhelm them with too much detail. Let it all sink in.”
Don’t move too fast in the beginning
Michael Watkins, the chairman of Genesis Advisers and author of The First 90 Days and Your Next Move, tells the Harvard Business Review that new managers should proceed with caution, but make it clear that you’re going to act according to your new supervisory role.
“You are walking a bit of an edge. You don’t want to come in as Alexander Haig and you don’t want to act as a super-peer either,” Watkins says, referring to Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Regan’s notoriously ambitious cabinet member.
Come up with small decisions you can decide on pretty fast, and save the larger ones for when you have more experience and can get more perspective.
Watkins reportedly cites creating a new team schedule, putting one-on-ones on the calendar and letting your new direct reports know how you envision future “team communication” as examples.
Show your team some respect by hearing them out
Listening is a big part of good management. Sustain your team’s trust by giving them the face time they deserve, and making sure that everyone has the resources necessary to succeed.
Also be sure to answer new questions they have, and give them the names of people in HR who can answer questions you don’t know the answer to, should they come up.
Back up — give them space
Monster’s career expert, Vicki Salemi, writes on the site about how she distanced herself from her former coworkers during casual discussions once she became their manager.
“[W]hen there was leftover food in the conference rooms I joined in and we chatted, but I only went for a few minutes and then made a quick escape,” Salemi wrote. “I understood that everybody needs time to vent about the boss or work, so I tried to let my employees have some privacy in their social lives. Also, I knew that being too friendly would make my job harder later.”
Salemi said she also changed the amount of information she shared with her former coworkers once she became privy to the new management-level info.
“[I]t’s extremely important to create boundaries,” she explains.
Develop a strategy
Jeff Boss, who spent 13 years as a Navy SEAL and went on to write Navigating Chaos: How To Find Certainty in Uncertain Situations and host The Chaos Cast Podcast: Leadership Lessons from Chaos, says setting yourself achievable benchmarks is an important first step as a new manager.
“Take a moment (or two) to consider two things: 1) what you need to do and 2) who you need to be in the next 30, 60 or 90 days to be successful. What will be considered a win for your role?” Boss writes in Forbes. “Note that this isn’t necessarily a win for you, personally (i.e. feeding the ego), but rather a win for the role and responsibilities you’re expected to fulfill as a professional,” he writes.
However, don’t “succumb to the trap of making changes for change’s sake,” just because you feel like you need to shake things up to prove your worth, Boss says.
Consider your relationship with your own manager at the organization, and how you’d like to draw from what works — and avoid what doesn’t work as well.
Move forward with confidence, but don’t overdo it.