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How to Transition from Peer to Supervisor

How to Transition from Peer to Supervisor

Congratulations! Your experience and skills have been recognized by your company and you’ve finally been promoted to manager or supervisor. But if you’re going to be managing a team of people that used to consider you a direct peer, this transition may be more challenging than you expect.

The relationships you have with people in your company will fundamentally change. Whereas before you may have had friends you gossiped with, this is no longer acceptable. People will be watching you very closely to understand what your management style is, whether you’re playing favorites.

Get ahead of the transition

It’s smart to have a one-to-one meeting with everyone you’re going to be managing. This can be informal but must get across the fact that your business relationships now have stronger boundaries. 

Be upfront that there might be a little awkwardness at first as your role changes. Discuss with each direct report how you like to run a team and listen to how each person sees themselves as part of the team. Ask if there is anything they think you could do to help them feel happier and perform better at their work.

Gently, gently

It’s not a good idea to come in on your first day as the team’s supervisor shouting from the rooftops about how things are going to change with you in charge. People need time to accept change, so it’s better to keep things chugging along for a while and introduce bolder initiatives after some time has passed and the team has gotten used to your leadership.

Make a few small decisions at the beginning to establish you’re in charge, but wait until you’re on solid ground before making major adjustments.

If you’re finding there is resistance to you now becoming the team leader, begin by looking for people who are on your side championing your cause. These cheerleaders can be invaluable as they can help build the number of people that have your back.

If you competed with anyone else for the management position, they’ll undoubtedly be a little upset. Recognize this and let them know you consider them a valuable part of the team and that you’ll help them find ways to advance in the company as much as possible.

Manage your changing relationships

Close friendships often need to be recalibrated when you become a supervisor. If you’re going to be evaluating, motivating, and checking up on a team member, the dynamic of your relationship needs to change so you can be objective and fair to everyone.

Some people can maintain good working friendships with their prior peers, whereas others need to maintain more distance. It’s tempting to want to remain one of the gang, but this will hurt your authority when you inevitably need to put your foot down.

Remember, as an insider, you have a significant advantage over a cold hire as you have existing relationships you can leverage, as long as you maintain the right balance between boss and peer.