How To Deal With Getting Promoted Above Your PeersJenna Arcandon August 16, 2021 at 7:30 pm Work It Daily


You’ve just been promoted! You’ve worked hard, proven yourself, maintained positive relationships with your co-workers (many of whom have become close friends), and you are looking to celebrate. Hmm…who do you invite out for a celebratory night?

This could be complicated as several people in your “hang-out crew” now report to you. Will they be supportive? Jealous? Uncomfortable going out with their new “boss”? All good questions. How can you easily transition from co-worker to boss while still maintaining your friendships?

Feeling Awkward

At first, you may feel awkward and that’s understandable. If you feel unsettled by the situation, chances are that your co-workers/friends do as well. Since you are now in the position of authority, it is possible that an individual who feels uncomfortable may not approach you directly. Instead, buzz about the obvious topic may be happening and you are being excluded from the conversations. It is important to address this head on.

Schedule one-on-one meetings with your new reports. You’ll be much better able to assess how your promotion is truly perceived if you make the time to connect with people individually and not as a group. In a group, people may not want to express if they have concerns about the new reporting structure or may not raise questions that they feel are applicable to their own scenario. Acknowledge that initially the situation may be awkward and encourage your new reports to express their concerns.

Ensuring that there is an open dialogue from the beginning will help to set the stage for positive future communication. Recognize and admit that this is new territory for you and that you anticipate that there will be a shift in the relationship. Let them know your expectation is that the shift will be productive and positive. Don’t apologize for your promotion. You’ve probably earned it. While some might question it, you should not. Establish yourself immediately as a confident leader.

Setting Boundaries (For Yourself And For Your Staff)

Differentiate for yourself personal feelings and supervisory responsibilities. As a co-worker, it may have bothered you that someone else came in late every morning. As a supervisor, “bother” may turn into “unacceptable.” Disciplinary conversation should be had after a situation happens while you are in charge. Don’t bring up scenarios that happened prior to that point. For example: “I know you’re always 15 minutes late and I want that to stop now that I’m overseeing you,” vs. “I noticed you came in late three times this week. My expectation is that you will be in on time. Is there something going on that you’d like to discuss? Please let me know and I thank you in advance for addressing this issue.”

Off-hour calls, texts, and so on. Your work friends may have thought it okay to text or call at all hours to complain or shoot the breeze about the office. Set limits and a cut off. Unless there is an extreme situation, a late night call or text to the boss can wait. If they are texting you the score of the latest game and that’s okay, let them know.

Establish rules about when “talking shop” should stop. Develop an outside network so you have other places to express yourself and vent. Before, you might have turned to a co-worker to gripe or to share a monumental work moment. While team camaraderie is great and these types of conversations often bond employees, remember that not all problems and not all achievements are appropriate to discuss with your team anymore. Find someone, ideally outside of the company and unrelated to your co-workers, to discuss work issues. Mentors are often great people for this purpose. If you don’t have one, seek one out. A mentor may also be able to help you navigate through this transition.

Moving Forward—It’s Okay To Be The Boss

If you are going to be the boss, be an awesome boss! Bruce Tulgan, author of Managing Generation X and Not Everyone Gets a Trophy, states in his “It’s Okay to Be the Boss” management workshop, “Everywhere we go, we find that managers and supervisors are too hands-off…” So, if you’ve been selected to supervise and lead, then just do it!

Set clear expectations for your team and hold them accountable. For example, let’s say you assigned a task to “Kathy” that involves weekly reporting and the first deadline comes and goes. When you approach Kathy, she casually says, “Oh, you know I could never get those stupid reports in on time. I’ll get it done later this week”. Sit down with Kathy and explain what you need, why you need it, and when you need it. Then, ask for her input for how to make sure your expectations are met. Don’t be afraid to take charge and to step into your more responsible role because of how dynamics might change at work. I can assure you, they will change.

If you embrace your new position with positive confidence, you will earn respect and dissolve some of the uncertainty that others may feel. Practice what you preach. Maintain the boundaries that you have set and don’t assume that others have not set their own personal boundaries, even if they have not communicated them. Unfortunately, some co-workers may no longer want an after-work call to go get a bite. You will need to test the waters with these scenarios and figure out what each person needs. Be respectful. You may get turned down sometimes and you don’t want to take it personally.

Transitioning from co-worker to supervisor can be challenging and is not without obstacles but it doesn’t have to be painful. Stay confident, respectful, and listen to your staff. Remind them that you are all still part of a team with common goals.

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This post was originally published at an earlier date.

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