Transitioning from Co-Worker to Manager

One of the more difficult career “bumps” I’ve been through and have helped coach other people through is being promoted from within a department to become a manager of that team.

Going from peer to supervisor is not easy, and is not for the faint of heart.

Don’t expect everyone to be thrilled for you.

People who you used to chat it up with at the watercooler may distance themselves, and you may find yourself the subject of some “trash talk.”

Most of that trash talk is because other people are jealous whether they want to admit it or not.

The truth of this is if you get promoted the very nature of your relationships with these people will shift.

It’s inevitable.

Your relationship has to change because your position has changed.

You go from being a co-worker to the person who is assigning the work, analyzing the results, and critiquing it.

It’s a tricky transition.

Managers are responsible for the productivity of their teams; therefore instead of being accountable to your supervisor for your work you’re not accountable for the work of everyone you manage.

Sometimes the people on the team will not behave respectfully to their new manager.

This all goes back to a mindset issue.

Those people are conditioned to think of their manager in a peer role and aren’t allowing their own mental transition to elevate that person to the role they have been promoted to hold.

I’d like to say that’s “their problem,” however we both know that’s not true.

While yes, their immaturity or negative mindset is their responsibility, it’s also the problem of their manager who is in a tough spot.

It’s not easy to navigate these rough waters, but it is possible.

I’ve made smooth transitions in this area and have coached many other people through similar journeys.

Here are my top pieces of advice for you:

  1. Seek out training & support.
    I’ve been hired by many companies to help members of their teams transition to new managerial roles.
    If your HR department doesn’t have internal resources, suggest this to them and either you or someone from the HR department can request a consultation to learn what it’s all about.
  2. Get rid of the pink elephant.
    This means you and your individual team members are going to talk and orient yourselves to your new roles.
    Your role is manager, and that person’s role is a loyal employee.
    Have an agenda for this meeting.
    Be honest.
    Talk about expectations you have of each other and get potential issues out in the open so you can talk them through.
  3. Act the part.
    Remain professional at all times regardless of the behavior of others.
    Treat each employee fairly (equally), and with respect.
    By listening to what each person has to say, you’ll build trust.
    You don’t have to respond.
    Listen & take notes.
  4. Bring your own water.
    Not really, but possibly.
    This means you’re not hanging around the watercooler or break-room anymore.
    These are not your peers for venting.
    This is not your gossip circle.
    If you have a good friend in your previous peer group who you now manage, have some private time with that person during your transition period and explain that your behavior is going to change and that doesn’t mean “you’re changing,” but rather that you’re having to change what you can and cannot do within the office in order to send a professional message to the group so you can be given respect as a manager.
    Tell that person a professional coach has told you to do this. (…because I am)
    Ask for that person’s support.
  5. No pets. Teacher’s pets, that is.
    I’m all in favor of a pet-friendly workplace… but not class favorites.
    If you do have friends or confidantes who you now manage, look at the instructions in the previous section and follow those.
    Be transparent.
    You’re going to need to have thick skin here.
  6. Arrange proper positioning.
    Ask senior management to give instructions (verbally) to your team when your promotion is announced.
    Ask them to acknowledge that there is a shift in role, and that may mean a shift in energy, relationships, and feelings.
    Ask senior management to invite your new team to discuss any issues they have and make sure your team knows how to explore concerns without feeling as though they’re going over your head.
    The last thing you want them to feel is trapped or without recourse.
    They need to feel supported even if you’re not the person they each would have chosen as their manager.
  7. Be clear & have a plan.
    Don’t expect people to do exactly what they have always done and leave it at that.
    Spell out your vision, tell them your game plan.
    Be clear, concise, and transparent.
    Be open with goals and objectives.

After transitions of this sort the team does one of two things:

  1. Comes together and moves forward, all rowing in the same direction
  2. Members who don’t belong there anymore leave, making room for new and more productive members.

Allow this transition.

Don’t let the possible exit of some team members scare you; every single person truly is replaceable and the loss of a few employees (even simultaneously) is not going to shut the company down.

You’ll make it through with a dependable team that supports you.

Mindset is key for you during this period, and my favorite tool for that is a journal.

Here is the journal I use, and here’s a previous blog detailing how I use it.

My journal helps in every area of life – especially my professional adventures.

…and I’m serious about considering enlisting the help of a coach to get you through this transition.

It’s not an easy time and the right coach can make all the difference – it has for me, at least, and I’m honored to have helped hundreds of people as well.

Here’s that link for a complimentary session if you’d like to check it out.

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