If you spend enough time climbing the corporate ladder, or if you work in a small organization, eventually you’ll be promoted to manage your peers. This is one of the toughest developmental experiences there is. It’s hard for you. It’s hard for your peers. It changes things forever. It doesn’t have to change things in a bad way, though. If you handle it right, you and they can grow from the experience.
I’ve known people who’ve turned down such a promotion because they don’t want to lose their friends. This, of course, is an option. It’s a short sighted one, in my opinion, though. We’ll get to that. First, let’s talk about how to handle it if you decide to take the promotion.
Get Your Head Straight
- Think of the best manager you ever had and act like him/her. Don’t go into super boss mode. Your peers will be super sensitive to any ‘power play’ and if you start making decisions without input, ordering people around, showing who’s in charge, then you will send off alarms that will be hard to turn off.
- DO NOT go easy on everyone to keep friends. First of all, it won’t work. Second of all, you will fail as a manager. Third of all, you will lose your subordinates’ respect. Go back to the advice above: think of the best manager you ever had and act like him/her.
- Don’t assume that your friends among your peers will support you. Don’t assume that your non-friends among your peers will sabotage you. You can’t count on anyone’s reaction to be as you expect. Approach the situation as if you just got hired from the outside. Look at each subordinate through fresh eyes. What does s/he bring to the table? What are his/her strengths? How can you help him/her grow? How can you form a real team from these folks?
- Be trustworthy, and just as important, be trusting. Delegate things that you used to do. Deal (in private) with the fact that others can’t do things as well as you did them–you didn’t do them as well when you started, either. Never, ever use anything you know from you friendship to get someone to do something. Give people the benefit of the doubt. DO NOT play favorites.
- Your job is to get results for the organization. Your job is to understand your boss’ priorities and deliver them. Your job is not to be ‘one of the gang.’ Do your job.
- Your boss, your new peers and your subordinates will all be watching how you handle this new situation.
Now Learn From My Experience
- There are people who will not like your promotion, although which ones might surprise you. They will get over it (likely) or they will leave. Either way, the problem won’t last long. There are people who will not only accept your promotion (again, who these folks are may surprise you), but who will also help you succeed at delivering the results you need to deliver. Appreciate these folks.
- Doing this right is hard. You won’t be perfect at it. All you can do is keep trying. Treat people with respect and for the most part, they’ll appreciate it. Everybody has to get used to the new normal of this. It takes time. Keep trying. Act like (you should know where I’m going with this) the best manager you ever had.
- I am friends, close friends, with people who have been my boss, people who have worked for me and with people who have been both. Friendship grows, changes, stalls, ends, and re-emerges (Facebook with anyone from high school lately?). Work relationships affect friendship, but in and of itself, does not make or break friendship. Take the promotion.