April 16, 2013
How to transition from co-worker to manager
One of the more difficult career situations I've coached people through -- and been through myself -- is being promoted from within a department to become the manager of that group.
As one client found out, going from a peer who previously "talked trash" about the manager with other colleagues to the person others talked about can make it a stressful transition.
My client realized that her personal relationships with her co-workers had to be moved to a different level, because she was no longer a peer -- she was the person who now assigned the work, analyzed productivity and provided performance appraisals.
Making the move from co-worker to department manager was a tricky transition because, as the new manager, she was responsible for the productivity and results of her department. Oftentimes her former co-workers, either because of jealousy or out of habit, didn't want to treat her as the boss; they wanted to continue treating her as one of the group.
Tips for making the transition easier:
• See your HR representative to find out what training and support is available as you take on your new role.
• Sit down one-on-one with each person in the department to discuss their feelings about your transition to manager. Talk about the expectations you have of each other and get potential issues out on the table so you can address them.
• Remain professional at all times, and treat each and every employee fairly and with respect.
• Eliminate your water-cooler or break-room gossip and venting sessions with employees.
• Don't allow previous work and/or friendships with your former peers to influence your new managerial responsibilities.
• Ensure that everyone on the team understands your new role as their manager and the responsibilities that are expected of you.
• Work out a game plan for how you and your team can best work together to achieve the goals and objectives of the department. (Be sure to clearly and concisely communicate those goals and objectives.)
Over time, as the team observed my client's leadership skills and professionalism, they stopped seeing her as their peer and came to accept her as their manager.
Remember, your position as manager isn't about trying to be popular; it's about leading others to achieve results. You may not win over everyone in the department, especially if one or two others also applied for the position you ultimately received. No matter what happens, keep the focus on the work to be done, give it your best effort every day and treat everyone fairly, and respect will follow.
Do you have a story about transitioning from a co-worker to manager of the same group? Share it in the Comments section below.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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