When Your Colleagues Become Your Employees


It’s unfortunate that so many well-earned promotions are celebrated with a small sense of unease about the situation. Inevitably, managers are chosen from the ranks of staff members, elevating one above the others.

In many scenarios, the reasons behind this decision are immediately obvious due to the individual’s well-known expertise, skill, and hard work.

Yet, even in such cases, these situations are rarely always or seamless. Here is a detailed guide on some things to keep in mind when you find yourself managing former friends and colleagues.

Be realistic

A new title does not equal a new attitude, style and skillset overnight. There will be a transition period, and you need to be realistic with yourself about how quickly you will mentally adjust to the role.

Another part of this is ensuring your superiors know it won’t happen like the flick of a switch either. Let them know that while you are confident you will adjust soon, you also expect it may take a little time due to the nature of your promotion.

Make it clear as to why you were promoted

Jealousy and envy are cruel emotions within a workplace, and often evolve from misunderstandings and miscommunications.

Be specific and very clear about the skills and experience that got you the role, and make sure you continue to perform your work at the same high levels to showcase these attributes.

Stop complaining to them. Now.

Gripes are common between peers in any job, so there’s no doubt that you are used to going to the same people when you have an issue with the work or management.

Once you’re the boss, you need to remember that your problems are no longer their problems. If you have a friend in the workplace who might take this particularly personally, let them know exactly why you can no longer complain to them, but that you are totally happy to hear their problems. After all, now you may be in a better role to help fix them.

Of course, the absolute worst complaint you could make to one of your employees is about another employee. If there is a serious issue with a staff member, you will need to deal with it yourself or talk to your own bosses about methods of resolving it in a professional manner.

Remember you still have bosses to impress

Promotions are fantastic as you now have people looking up to you, so it’s natural you will want to impress them and make sure they know why you’re in that position.

That said, don’t forget the people who promoted you need reassurance they made the right decision just as much as your employees need proof. It’s a difficult spot to be in, but not one that can’t be managed through the same hard work that got you into it in the first place.

Set expectations

If the company didn’t formally announce your promotion, find a way to do this for yourself. Use this opportunity to inform your employees of exactly what you are responsible for now so that it won’t come as a shock when you check their progress or ask them to take on new work.

You could talk to them as a team or individually to make sure that from the outset they know what your main goals are for the future. Even if you don’t make changes right away or outline your exact plans, it will help them come to terms with the move if you can make them see the position in the long-term.

Trust yourself

In this situation it’s all too easy to second-guess your new promotion, especially when you come across your first few challenges.

When – not if – this happens, remember why you were promoted, and remind yourself that you were the best person for the job. This is also a good time to find your limits, so talk to your boss about when you will need to ask for help, and when they trust you to make the call for yourself.

Take it slow

Make sure your employees know you won’t go in guns blazing and overhaul the department in your first week. Give them time to adjust to the shift before you start changing big things.

Use your friendships to your advantage

A disconnect between managers and employees is one of the most common problems in any work environment. Remember that you may have the upper hand here if you can hold on to the bonds you created with your colleagues as a peer.

Let them know that even though you are the boss now, you still want to hear their ideas and feedback. If you are open to these lines of communication from day one, you may be able to continue that success later.

Use normal management tools

All managers face similar problems, whether they are new to it, managing their ex-peers or are old hands at the role.

Strategies such as following through on discipline, asking for feedback, avoiding favouritism, leading by example and even dressing with authority are all just as valuable of tools for a new manager as an old one.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

It’s easy to feel like once you’ve received a promotion, you need to prove to everyone just how much you earned it by delivering every task to perfection all on your own steam.

You are still learning, and knowing when to ask for help or advice is a skill that will help you not just thrive in your new position, but continue your training experience to get you closer to the next step, too.

It may seem like it goes against good sense, but asking your employees for help in some circumstances can be hugely beneficial for you and the team. A manager who never admits they don’t know the answer is nothing but a liar, but when a manager involves their employees in the discussion, it will help pull everyone into the team mentality.

Deal with troublemakers

You may find one or two employees unwilling to accept the change in situation.

Single them out and deal with each case separately. Since you already know them, you may be able to better understand why they feel this way and address these issues.

A lot of the time, some one-on-one attention and a clear explanation of the move will be enough. You can also try the approach of letting them know how you plan to use your new station to improve their own job, and how you would be happy to work with them so that they will be in line for the next available promotion.

Never apologise

You deserve this, and saying sorry to someone else tells them you don’t think you do. When you feel an apology forming on your tongue when talking about your promotion, swallow it and move on.