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June 26, 2014 at 1:00 AM

How to make managing your former teammates less awkward

You’ve been kicked upstairs. Congratulations! You worked hard to earn that promotion — you deserve it! — and a celebration is definitely in order.

At the same time, however, you should be aware that not everyone may feel the same way. Namely, your former peers. Some may resist the fact that you are now in a position of authority over them (where once you were just part of the gang). Some may try to take unfair advantage of your friendship; others who have been gunning for the promotion themselves may now be resentful, possibly angry.

Even the co-workers who cheer on your career advancement may find it difficult, or just awkward, to be suddenly taking orders from a person they used to regard as an equal.

Your best bet is to immediately set some boundaries, modestly but without apology. Tell your former pals you’re very proud to be leading such a talented team and that you can’t succeed without them. Let them know you have their backs. You can be honest — go ahead and acknowledge the potential awkwardness of the situation — but be firm about moving forward in your new role and about your expectations of support.

And if problems do arise — for example, your new subordinates think that, because they knew you when, it’s OK to come in to work late or to miss deadlines? Confront these issues immediately, just as you would with an employee with whom you don’t have a history.

In fact, simply being a good boss will win the respect of old and new team members alike. This means asking for suggestions; giving people the tools they need to do their jobs; setting reasonable deadlines; and spelling out how performance will be measured.

And look on the bright side: Even though you are no longer “one of the gang,” you know your team well enough to avoid the pitfalls of micromanaging. It’s an advantage that you already know everyone’s strengths and weaknesses.

Finally, know that not everything can remain the same. You can no longer indulge in gossip or join them for those happy-hour rants. This doesn’t mean you can’t be human, just that you’ll have to learn the fine line between being friendly and being a friend.

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. Email her at

More in Work Life Blog | Topics: career advancement, management, morale, office politics, promotions

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Blog contributors

Randy Woods Writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Former contributors

Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."

Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.


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