Making the transition from "one of the guys/gals" to the boss takes time, diplomacy and patience.
A promotion at work should be good news. You’ll presumably be bringing home a bigger paycheck. You may be inheriting a nicer workstation and maybe even an assistant. You are leaving old, boring tasks behind and graduating to newer, more challenging assignments. You are, finally, on your way to bigger and better things.
What could be scary about that?
Well, if you are now finding yourself in the position where you’re supervising people who just five minutes ago were your equals, then you definitely need to consider that your former peers (who knew you when) might be less than thrilled with your newfound glory.
So brace yourself for these possible reactions:
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Resistance. It may be hard for people to suddenly switch from seeing you as one of them to seeing you as a fearless leader. Expect this transition to take time.
Suspicion. Some people just naturally assume that good fortune is due to luck, politics or favoritism, not to superior skills and performance. Indeed, former colleagues may greet your promotion with cynicism, disdain, or even anger — whether or not they were gunning for the job.
Envy. Another weird quirk of human nature is that people tend to resent success. Consider it the flip side of rooting for the underdog. Even colleagues who are truly happy for you may also, on some level, hate you a little.
Isolation. You spend a lot of time on the job, and the relationships you form there often turn into friendships. At least they feel like friendships. But work alliances are subject to many outside forces so don’t be surprised if, when your job changes, so do your job friendships.
Your best approach is to take things slowly. Assert your new authority gradually, and with as much grace as you can muster. Ask for feedback and input. Clarify expectations, both those you will have of your new subordinates, and those your new staff will have of you. Be scrupulously fair. Be yourself, but also know that you will need to redefine boundaries. Most of all, accept that your old relationships are going to change and that you will never again be accepted as one of the guys/girls.
Call it the price of success. (And, congratulations!)
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.