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6 Tips For Managing Your Former Coworkers

Here's how to be humble, confident, familial, and authoritative in your new role all at once.

6 Tips For Managing Your Former Coworkers
[Photo: gpointstudio via Shutterstock]

It’s a common scenario: You’ve worked hard, proven yourself, and the higher-ups have noticed. Drumroll . . . you’ve been promoted! Then you realize something. Your peers and friends with whom you’ve been in the trenches, bonding over the ups and downs of work, are now your direct reports. You want to quickly grab your work BFF and tell her what's going on, but you can’t—she’s affected by this, too. Going from buddy to boss can be challenging for any manager, let alone a new manager. Take a deep breath and follow these tips.

1. Address The Elephant In The Room (Carefully)

There has been a cosmic shift in hierarchy among your peers. How you handle the communication of your new role is vital to preserving the morale of the team. First, you want them to hear from you before any company-wide email or announcement is released. Feeling out-of-the-loop may only strengthen potential resentment.

The best tactic, depending on the logistics of your specific situation, would be to gather your new direct reports in a private meeting or lunch to deliver the news. 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.

2. Listen Up

After the news breaks, schedule a follow-up meeting with your team. Invite them to share feedback with you prior to the meeting about what they do or don’t like about the current processes. These may be gripe sessions, and that’s okay. They need to understand that change won’t happen overnight, but that you are in charge of being this change agent.

[Related: How Soma CEO Mike Del Ponte Creates A Vibrant Work Culture]

3. Establish Your Confidence And Authority Early

Begin this meeting by letting the team know that their feedback helped inform your vision for the department. Talk about priorities, any responsibility and procedural changes (who is now doing your old job?), and your ideas for the best way for your team to work. Do you have any new expectations for the team? Are goals changing? How is your role changing? Think of this as Becky-as-the-New-Boss 101. Your tone is crucial here: Be confident but humble.

4. Create Boundaries

Don’t let your former relationships with coworkers cloud your judgment. Expectations must be the same for all your employees and you need to establish early on what is acceptable behavior. If someone is complaining to you about company policy, say, "Because I'm your boss now, I need to know if this is something you're looking to me to provide a solution for." Avoid granting special privileges or breaks. You need to establish yourself as their leader in a graceful but firm way.

[Related: 6 Mistakes Even The Smartest New Managers Make]

5. Find More Work Friends

The truth is, you may not get invited to happy hour anymore. Or, if you do, there may be an awkward vibe in the air. It’s natural to feel lonely in this new role, straddling worlds between management and peers. Find mentors or other managers who've been in your situation.

6. Don’t Forget Where You Came From

The best way to enroll your new team members is to prove that your unique perspective—understanding what it’s like to be in their shoes—and clear vision for the future is the best thing for everyone. You’re all still on the same team, but you are just leading the charge.

This article originally appeared on Levo and is reprinted with permission.

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