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I Was Promoted! But Things Are Different...How to Manage Your Friends at Work

You used to hang out with a great group of people on the team – your peers. You would all go to lunch, share stories, share cocktails after work.

Then you got promoted to their Manager. On one hand, congratulations! It’s great to be recognized and develop your career. On the other, how do you now manage those friends?

This is a very common occurrence in business. People on teams develop strong bonds and those bonds can be strained when one member of the group gets elevated responsibilities. Below are some tips to help new managers create expectations for success.

First, recognize that relationships have to change.

Those personal relationships you’ve created have to become less personal. You can’t afford to have your judgement clouded by personal feelings. There may be times when you have to deliver critical feedback or hard messages – you need to be able to focus on the behavior, not on the person.

You also can’t afford the perception of playing favorites. You may be closer to one person on the team than others, but you must work to treat everyone the same. I once worked with a manager who went running with someone on his team. The building I worked in was glass, and other teammates could see them running outside. The perception was “What are they talking about? She’s getting more time with the manager than we are!” The truth was, they both loved running. But the negative perception was all that mattered. My advice to that manager was sure, keep running with Sue, but find activities with everyone else too so you are balancing your time with team members.

In the beginning, have a great first meeting.

The best thing you can do is get together with your now direct reports and discuss feelings and perceptions. Some may be upset that they weren't the ones promoted. Talk about their value, what they bring to the team. Be clear about boundaries and expectations. You may encounter team members who are upset that they won’t be “in the know first” anymore. Ensure they understand what you can and now cannot share in your new position. And ask about their expectations of you as their manager – how can you support them in a new way?

Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Work to create a climate of openness with your team. Be a manager who is receptive to new ideas and feedback. Don’t require people to have iron-clad answers when they bring problems to you. Create an environment where they can bring possible solutions to you for discussion and shared ownership.

You may also need to rethink your advice network for challenges you have. If you once went only to your teammates, consider partnering with your new set of manager peers to brainstorm on any new challenges you encounter.

Finally, you need to recognize that disappointed former peers may take some time to work things through, experiencing feelings of anger or negativity, until they finally get to acceptance.

Being promoted is great for your career. Although it may seem hard in the beginning, the professional maturity you gain is so valuable in your continued growth. Continue to be the friendly, caring person you are – it’s part of what got you here. And now, focus on balance and the growth of your new team.




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