Managing Former Co-Workers

John Krautzel
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When you get promoted above co-workers, it's common to face pushback from former peers who view you as a usurper more than a boss. A leadership role comes with the challenge of being decisive and assertive while maintaining good relationships with co-workers. While you can't force people to be friendly or put aside their resentment, you can prove your worth as a manager by building trust and respect.

Listen to Feedback

Give your team a chance to air grievances in a constructive way. New managers often get stuck with unresolved conflict from the previous boss, and co-workers may have high expectations for you because you were recently in their place.

Showing compassion helps you set a positive tone for team relationships. Avoid taking a hard-line, know-it-all approach when you first step into a leadership role. Make it clear to co-workers that you value their contributions and care about their needs. By encouraging people to open up, you can find out what problems are most pressing and start delivering results right away.

Use Tactful Communication

Be mindful toward co-workers who may be nursing hurt feelings. Getting passed over for promotion is hard, especially when you have to work for someone who landed the job you wanted. Don't tiptoe around anyone, but try not to gloat or boss people around. Give peers time to feel comfortable with your leadership role. If an angry co-worker has major influence with your team, consider talking to the employee one-on-one to clear the air.

Be Credible and Fair

The best way to demonstrate your management skills is to set standards and follow through on them. Employees who already question your leadership role are likely to scrutinize every flaw, and if any co-workers are close friends, they may look for ways to take advantage of your growing authority.

Lead by example, and let everyone see that you believe in fair recognition and accountability across the board. You lose all trust the moment you start playing favorites or making excuses for personal behavior. Focus on setting attainable goals for your team early on, so you can produce measurable success that motivates everyone to stay positive and work together.

Set Personal Boundaries

Trying to be everyone's best friend might seem like a good strategy, but it may prevent you from making smart decisions. Work friendships are a minefield, and you end up trying to navigate around each person's feelings instead of looking at the big picture.

Set boundaries with friends from day one. Explain to your peers that you have a job to do and want your choices to be impartial and productive for the whole team. When you treat everyone with fairness and respect, teammates see you as a competent leader with proven management skills.

Moving up to a leadership role can be daunting, but don't forget you earned the position for a reason. The company trusts you to get positive results from your team, and learning to manage people with different needs and personalities is a big part of the job. To thrive in a leadership role, put yourself in others' shoes and promote behavior that makes your work environment better for everyone.

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