Peer to Boss
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From Peer to Boss

Ask The Expert

By Barbara Mitchell

Q: I was just promoted and now manage people who are my friends and former peers. I’m responsible for our department’s productivity and will be doing performance reviews for my team. How do I let them know that things have changed and that we will work together differently?

A: Congratulations on your promotion! Now you’ve got some hard work ahead of you. It isn’t easy to change hats and manage people who last week you were going to happy hour with!

But it’s certainly possible to successfully move from peer to boss. Start by looking for webinars or books on good management practices so that you are well informed about what makes a good manager. Ask your HR rep or your manager for ideas, but take responsibility for your own development.

In short, a good manager lets his or her team know what is expected of them, supports them in any way possible, and gets out of their way so they can do the jobs they were hired for. What makes your situation uneasy is that you have personal relationships with some or all of these people, and they know you in a way, perhaps, that most people don’t know their bosses.

Meet one-on-one with each person who reports to you and clarify expectations. Let them know your goals for the department and how you see them contributing to its success. Clearly spell out that you value each person and the contributions they make to the association while reminding them that you now have a different role to play.

In these conversations, be professional and open to hearing your team members’ ideas. Acknowledge that you will be holding them accountable for their work and that you will support them in any way possible. Ask them to express any concerns they have, and respond. Make a commitment to each person that you will be fair and honest in all your dealings with them.

What makes your situation uneasy is that you have personal relationships with these people, and they know you in a way, perhaps, that most people don’t know their bosses.

This is the time to be clear about another aspect of your new role: Now that you‘re responsible for team performance, you won’t be as available as you once were for lunches or after-work activities. You certainly don’t want to cut off all informal contact with your team—just back off a bit from the socialization.

There may be people who can’t handle the new relationship and you will have to make hard decisions—but that’s what managers do. Just keep in mind that your responsibility is to the team and to the association. If you need help, ask your HR department. And if you have a mentor, this is a perfect time to ask for guidance as you manage your new responsibilities and your new team.

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR. Do you have a question you’d like her to answer in “Ask the Expert”? Send it to [email protected].

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