Transitioning from a peer to a manager can be super awkward, and you may feel like you’re in a challenging position. It could be an awkward spot to be in for a few reasons. You may be actual friends with your peers, not just work friends, and there may be an unspoken expectation that you will let things slide or treat them differently than people you are not friends with. Becoming a manager on a team, you worked on beforehand may have put you in a position that competed with other members to obtain this management position. There may be some hurt feelings around that, which may make your transition from peer to manager a little bit awkward. 

In this article, I will offer some advice to help make this transition a smoother experience. 

Would you prefer to read rather than watch? Not to worry! You can read the blog post below.

But first, to really help you stand out in your new role I highly recommend downloading The Ultimate Guide to Being an Effective Team Leader.  A free downloadable interactive guide to help you show up and stand out and take the right action steps.

Tip #1 - Address the Elephant in the Room

This will be awkward and something you will absolutely not want to do, but the longer you ignore the problem, the bigger it will become. Address the other team members that wanted this position to let their feelings be heard and validated. Address your friends that are now on the team you manage to help them understand that they do not receive special treatment, but you are still friends. It will get very awkward and unenjoyable to come to work every day if these issues are not addressed right away. 

Tip #2 - Acknowledge that there are Hurt Feelings

Talking to the person who wanted your promotion is important. This is the perfect opportunity to be a good manager and show your leadership skills right from the start. Addressing the co-worker who wanted the promotion and letting them know you see them and feel them is a great first step in being the manager they need. 

You could say something along the lines of “Hey Sally, I wanted to talk to you today because I know that this promotion was something you were hoping for. You wanted an opportunity to lead this team, and that didn’t happen. And I wanted to talk to you about how you are feeling.” 

This will be a very awkward conversation, but you are the manager now, and it’s your responsibility to take care of your team. 

Ask two specific questions.

Asking this team member if they have any concerns with you being manager

What do they think are really strong aspects about the team, and what needs to be approved upon.

I get it asking for feedback on yourself is scary, and you may not like the answer, but as a manager, you can’t take everything too personally, and you may even learn something about yourself. This also stops gossiping before it starts. You know that if they don’t get what they are feeling off their chest to your face, they will be saying it behind your back to others. 

The second question is great to give you a new perspective, show their skillset, and get them into a solution-finding mindset. If this person was up for the same promotion as you, they must also be very good at their job and have a strong skillset that you can utilize, and getting them into a solution mindset can help you do that. 

Tip #3 - Expect to have this conversation several times

This is not a one-and-done conversation. It will be an ongoing conversation, but eventually, something will shift. Whether this person settles into their role and accepts that they were not promoted, or they decide the title was too important to them and they resign, or you have to fire them for lack of productivity. If you end up losing a team member, for this reason, it is not a bad thing and definitely something you should not feel bad about. Some people hold a lot of value in a title, and that’s all there is to it. 

Tip #4 - Set firm expectations and boundaries

This will be addressing your peers that you were friends with before you were promoted and maybe feeling that they will be given special treatment and a pass, so to speak, since you guys are pals. So, what they are doing is setting expectations on you instead of you setting expectations for them. This is not fair to you and needs to be addressed, again to address the elephant in the room. Pull your friends aside for a chat and explain that you respect them as friends and team members. Still, you must be fair and consistent, which means your relationship’s dynamics will have to change to maintain your credibility with the other team members who may be expecting you to treat your friend differently than them. 

This is a conversation that might need to be had several times. Even after setting boundaries, your friend may cross the line and need to be reminded that it is not acceptable. Stick to your boundaries, and eventually, they will get it, or they won’t and decide that maybe it’s not the place for them anymore. That’s a really crummy outcome if a friend is not able to get on board with your boundaries and understand where you are coming from, but it happens, unfortunately. 

Tip #5 - Establish your credibility

Make sure that you are really focusing on establishing your credibility as you transition from a peer to a manager. This will take time and is heavily tied to establishing your competence and showing that you are working to be your best, whether that means taking courses, getting the training you need, and finding the support you need. All these things will help build your credibility, but it shows you are taking your role seriously. If you don’t show you are taking your role seriously and trying to be the best you can, then your employer and the team you are managing won’t take you seriously, and they definitely won’t show you respect. You must put in what you want out of this experience. 

Conclusion

If you feel a bit lost or frustrated in your new position, it’s ok and totally normal. I think everyone feels this way in a new role; the key is to improve even if you’re scared. Follow the steps above to get the hard conversations started and establish yourself as a manager who cares and will address issues before they can fester. If you feel you need some guidance, I have a free guide to help lead your team to become high-performing and achieve results as a new manager.