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Phoenix Forward

5 tips for managing your former peers

Coworkers speaking together

Co-workers’ coffee mugs are clinking, congratulating you on your recent promotion. But you realize mid-toast that you have to supervise the co-worker who also vied for the position, or even risk hurting your chummier colleagues' feelings when you can no longer chat openly or attend lunches or coffee breaks with them on a daily basis.

Being promoted doesn’t mean eliminating your likeability factor in order to effectively manage your fellow employees, says Anthony L. Di Gaetano, MAOM, an instructor in the MBA program and area chair at the University of Phoenix Sacramento Valley Campus. Devising a tactful strategy to leverage your new status into an amicable and productive position among your colleagues is wisest, adds Di Gaetano. He recommends following the advice he’s offered newly promoted managers during his 30-plus years within UPS management:

1. Get support from your manager.

“Try to give your employees all of the resources to help make them — and you — successful by building a relationship with your manager,” says Di Gaetano. This relationship can help build your team’s trust in you as their advocate to get their needs met. Also, ask your manager or your manager's boss to announce your promotion to the team to further leverage your credibility among co-workers, especially those with slighted feelings.

2. Temporarily stop working alongside co-workers.

Di Gaetano finds it beneficial for internally promoted managers to leave their old office space to temporarily work alongside upper management and then return to their old department weeks later. The time away helps colleagues better adapt to the management change and respond to your directives.

3. Communicate expectations.

Show employees respect, and they will do likewise, says Di Gaetano. This means communicating your expectations when beginning your new role. “Communication with your colleagues is important because you establish that you are trying to fix anything that may have been broken with prior leadership and that they can expect change.” This includes your expectations regarding work productivity and complaint reporting. It also means communicating your willingness to help them improve before their next performance review.

4. Don’t fuel the perception of favoritism.

Di Gaetano acknowledges a colleague may feel burned by your promotion or unhappy you “chose” your job over friendships. You may feel inclined to lessen the emotional blow by having regular lunches or trying to constantly mentor the overlooked colleague. “Do not,” he warns. While the occasional lunch or mentoring moment with direct reports is acceptable, he says too much can appear like favoritism. Why have uninvited colleagues wonder if you’re always footing the lunch bill or if their promotion potential is being overlooked? Instead, he adds, express to them your reasons for “keeping it professional.”

5. Roll up your sleeves.

“Don’t hesitate to roll up your sleeves and get in the trenches with your co-workers,” says Di Gaetano. “This helps build relationships, smooth the transition for employees, and may even alleviate any sense of competition because you are telling them, ‘I am willing to work with you side by side.’”