In our management training program, we always start by asking what each participant’s goals are for the class. Learning how to be more productive, how to delegate, how to motivate, and how to develop employees are frequently mentioned. Another common goal inevitably appears as someone asks, “How do I manage my friends? I used to be their co-worker but now I’m their boss!”
Becoming a manager of a person you previously commiserated with (and likely about “the management”) can be tricky. They may be older than you or have been in the business longer than you and, as a result, feel frustrated that you were promoted ahead of them. Not to mention that some of these now former co-workers are your friends or worse, your frenemies, and they might see your newfound power in a negative light.
Successfully negotiating the minefield that can be your first few weeks as a new manager will set a precedent for the future. Here are 4 strategies that will help you establish your position and develop effective relationships with your former co-workers:
- Don’t power trip: While your new title does give you some legitimate authority, getting things done is not best accomplished by forcing others to do them. Moving from place of minimal power to one where you rule the roost means you could be tempted to set your foot down firmly right off the bat and set some ground rules. Avoid this. Peers of yours will feel betrayed and those who are unsure or are outright opposed to your promotion will quickly make up their minds that you are the new office bully.
- Put yourself in their shoes: One of the key characteristics of a great manager is a healthy level of emotional intelligence, or EQ. Those who have a higher EQ tend to better understand the needs and wants of others. When you are a new manager, understanding the way your position impacts how others feel about you is important. One great way to make sure you empathize is to write down the names of everyone who reports to you and, one-by-one, think about what their position is, a few things about them personally, and how you think your new position might affect them. Be careful though – you still must call the shots, so don’t get too lost in how they might feel. Instead, take their viewpoints and feelings into consideration and let them know you are doing it. Remember, people appreciate being heard.
- Have 1:1s with your staff: Sit down with each person that reports to you and let them have their say. This works on two fronts: employees get to voice their concerns about the change and you get a clear picture of what issues need to be addressed going forward. Make sure you listen and take notes. Many people believe they can just remember what was said but having notes to refer to can be invaluable in the future. Before your 1:1 is over be sure to let each employee know that you have their best interests in mind and that you will sometimes have to do things they might not like for the greater good of the company, but that it comes from a place of good intentions. Also, make sure your 1:1 isn’t a one-off: make them regularly scheduled and rarely missed.
- Use upfront verbal contracts: The organization has changed, and you want to make sure that your fears regarding your new role aren’t realized. While your instinct may be to avoid these issues and hope for the best, a better strategy is to be upfront about those concerns and develop clear expectations with your direct reports. An upfront verbal contract is like a business pre-nuptial Decide how each of you will behave if the thing you are afraid of happens. There are 4 steps to an upfront verbal contract – learn more here.
Becoming a new manager can be a tricky transition but it doesn’t have to be. Don’t be a tyrant, listen to and empathize with your staff, and gain commitment on how you’d like everyone to behave. Your promotion might go over so well you’ll think you’ve forgotten something!