How To Prevent Everyone From Hating You When You Go From Coworker To Boss
by Brent Roy
The career transition from coworker to boss can be among the toughest for first-time managers to weather. When you tackle the change with a little forethought and planning, it is possible to flourish in your new leadership role without everyone hating you!
One of my clients (I’ll call her Jacinda) struggled initially with going from coworker to boss. Because of her youth and complete inexperience as a manager, she noticed feelings of imposter syndrome. A few of her former teammates seemed slightly awkward around her. She realized she could better serve both herself and her team by setting the tone early.
Leading the team where you were one of the gang can create uneasy feelings. Like Jacinda, you will likely notice a sudden shift in dynamics.
Based on Jacinda’s experiences, here are some ways to prevent everyone from hating you when you go from coworker to boss.
What to Avoid
We’ll get to some important things to start doing, but to begin your new role on the right foot, be sure you’re not doing any of the following.
Doing Their Work For Them
As an individual contributor, you excelled at meeting deadlines and getting things done. Chances are, this is the work ethic that helped with your promotion. As a manager, you will need to temper your instinct to complete tasks with the need to take a higher view. You will need to develop a more strategic focus. This includes giving the autonomy to your team members to complete their tasks without your constant oversight.
Micromanagers are the scourge of the workplace. If there is a workplace hell, it’s filled with controlling, nitpicking managers who sabotage creativity and try to control every aspect of the individual’s work. You don’t want that for yourself and no one around you wants it either, so don’t go there…even for a second!
There are two kinds of micromanagers: those who think they’re effective leaders yet are not and those who know they’re not but want to improve. There’s hope for the second category. If that’s you and you want to continue to grow, work on trusting your team. Note, there is no such term as “micro-leader.”
You can leverage the friendships you’ve forged with your teammates but you must be careful about how you manage these relationships going forward. While we’re all adults, you don’t want them to perceive you as playing favorites. Jacinda and her closest friend on the team went for lunch daily before Jacinda became manager. When Jacinda went from coworker to boss, her friend acted as nothing had changed.
Jacinda had to set the tone of that and other relationships going forward. She told her friend that because of her promotion, Jacinda would like to keep their interactions at work professional. That meant not lunching with her or anyone on the team. Instead, she arranged quarterly all-team business lunches as a way to drive engagement mixed with some planning.
While doing their work, micromanaging and playing favorites are no-nos in your new role, there are many things helpful things to implement. Here are a few things you can start doing to prevent everyone from hating you when you go from coworker to boss
What to start doing
On the positive side, these simple actions can set a firm foundation of leadership.
Stay in touch with your team using various methods of communication. Quick meetings, brief emails about any pertinent changes, and instituting regular one-on-ones are great places to start.
Set the Tone
When you go from coworker to boss, your former teammates will be watching you. How you handle things gives them clues about what is acceptable. If you like to work late and make yourself accessible at all hours, they will think they are also expected to. Your behavior is what your team will emulate.
Set Expectations…for everything
Part of communicating is setting expectations. It may take a few weeks to get a feeling for the role, but don’t wait too long. If you plan to do some things differently than the previous manager, you need to let the team know what the new expectations are, with examples.
As a manager, you will need to pull yourself away from the individual contributor mindset. Instead, you will need to focus on more strategic priorities, while trusting the team to do the work they are trained and experienced to do. This means you will need to delegate many of your tasks and projects to them. If you’re nervous about this, start slow, with the lower risk projects and tasks. Once your comfort level increases, it will become easier to involve your team in leading higher risk tasks and projects.
When you fully delegate you’re giving autonomy. You encourage your direct reports to take ownership by letting them decide the best way to approach their work. When you go from coworker to boss, this is highly motivating to them and goes a long way toward building trust.
Ask for advice
Once you feel more comfortable in your role and you’ve begun to develop trust as a leader, you may want to seek input from your team members. It could be about a project or, if you dare, your performance as a leader. Asking for advice is actually more effective than asking for feedback. The reason for this is because when asked to provide advice, people tend to focus less on evaluation, and more on potential future actions. This way, you’re more likely to get more useful information.
Jacinda successfully applied these tactics in her role immediately. Within just a few short months, she feels much more confident in her role. The imposter syndrome has faded and her confidence is high. She is happy she implemented these steps early in her role, as she knows it’s much harder to make changes later. And best of all, the steps she took really did prevent everyone from hating her when she went from coworker to boss!
Brent Roy, PCC, CPLC, CMC, is a certified executive, career and personal development coach, and mentor coach. I work with men and women who want to increase their confidence and boost their executive presence to prepare them for promotion or a new career. For more ways I can help, please reach out!
(I wrote this original article for YourTango. It was published there on October 29, 2023 as “How New Leaders Can Stop Everyone From Hating Them When They Become The Boss” The Editors at MSN.com also published the article.