So you’ve just gotten the promotion you were after and now you find yourself managing people who used to be your peers. How can you take on this new role successfully?
Switching gears isn’t easy. Here’s some advice from Erin White’s article titled How New Managers Supervise Their Former Peers about the extremes you want to avoid and how to sidestep them:
Scenario 1: One of the gang. The first extreme many new managers take when they find themselves managing former peers is to stick with their friendly relationship. These managers keep up close ties and often don’t draw the line between supervisor and employee. In this case, it’s difficult for the new manager to exert her authority, according to White.
What to do instead: It’s more effective to listen to an employee’s personal problems and offer company avenues for help, such as employee assistance, rather than dishing up your own advice, which may step beyond the manager-employee boundary.
Scenario 2: Laying down the law. The opposite extreme is to overcompensate for a new promotion by immediately exerting your authority over former peers. Some new managers might be overly critical or scold employees in front of their peers to leave a dominant impression.
What to do instead: You should confront an employee who used to be your peer about a business issue in private. You should also take a firm stance. Acknowledge that what you need to discuss is separate from your friendly relationship with the employee, says White. Keep your tone of voice low but firm. Most employees will respond well.
Scenario 3: Avoiding confrontation. Another mistake some first-time managers make is to avoid coaching employees who used to be their peers. If the employee makes an error, the manager fixes it himself without mentioning it to the employee.
What to do instead: What many managers don’t realize is that they’re also keeping employees from developing professionally. Offer additional training or coaching to the employee without being too harsh. You might also want to sprinkle in some positive feedback with your criticism.