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What tips are there for new managers who are now supervising their former peers?

Taking on a management role can be demanding. It can be even more challenging when a promotion places an employee in a role that now supervises former co-workers, requiring the manager to change peer relationships into manager-employee relationships.

Here are some tips for managing such transitions:

  • Separate personal relationships from professional ones. You can remain friendly with former co-workers, but make it clear that personal relationships cannot and will not influence your decisions and actions at work. This separation may involve limiting or eliminating after-work socializing to avoid potential conflicts. This does not mean managers and employees can't be social or have lunch together. But if they do, conversations should be limited to topics such as hobbies and interests.
  • Let former peers know that you take your responsibilities seriously. Some new managers will use jokes or humor to ease into difficult conversations with employees, but doing so can undermine the seriousness of a counseling session or disciplinary action. Being gentle but firm can go a long way in helping employees improve and in helping managers earn employees' respect.
  • Treat all employees equally. Playing favorites can create tension and interfere with effective leadership. It can also invite claims of discrimination. Managers should consistently provide positive feedback and suggestions for improvement to all subordinates. Doing so can ensure employee development and fair treatment.
  • Ask for help. Many managers have found themselves managing former co-workers and peers. Other leaders can serve as guides and mentors.
  • Be honest. This is rarely easy for either the new manager or the former co-workers, but acknowledging to the team upfront that there is some awkwardness generally eases the tension and allows the new manager to reset ground rules without appearing to want to be overbearing.

By separating personal relationships from professional ones and managing former peers consistently, fairly and respectfully, a new manager can make this transition smoothly and effectively.


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