Supervising Your Former Peers

By Tom Davidson

Q. How do I deal with being promoted to supervisor of former buddies and peers?

A. This is a classic challenge for managers at all levels, and, while most people don’t want to hear it, the simple answer is, “You can’t.” Like it or not, when you took the new job, your relationship with your old colleagues changed forever.

This doesn’t mean you can’t be friendly; in fact, you should! It does mean that your priorities have to change. You need to be clear about what you’re being paid to do (i.e., manage things and lead people), and you have to be willing to let these relationships change.

You Can’t:

  • Hang out together in the same ways or with the same frequency; otherwise you continue to blur the line between your old and new job and put yourself in an eventually untenable position.
  • Grouse about upper management like you used to, because now you are part of upper management and you have to role model positivity and problem solving.
  • Look the other way when people break rules, undermine policy or cause unnecessary workplace disruptions, because it’s now your responsibility (in some cases legal responsibility) to report and correct such behaviors.

You Can:

  • Be friendly to all your direct reports and create a positive, enjoyable and motivational workplace environment.
  • Arrange occasional social gatherings where your people can have fun, get to know one another and their families, and enjoy reasonable and appropriate entertainment that builds morale and camaraderie.
  • Develop even more meaningful relationships with your past peers by helping them succeed, telling them the hard truth, and getting them the knowledge, skills and resources they need for success with your organization or one that’s a better fit for them.

For more information on this subject, read “The Popularity Paradox” in “The 8 Greatest Mistakes New Managers Make” available at Also, sign up below or my newsletter, Leaderslips & Tips: The Good, the Bad and the Bungled” for monthly lessons in leadership ripped from the daily news.

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