5 Ways to Go From Co-Worker to Manager

UPDATED: September 13, 2019
PUBLISHED: October 22, 2014
Go from Coworker to Manager

Every employee should strive to be better than their co-worker. Period.

Some of the strongest teams comprise staff who have a healthy, competitive mentality. When employees wants to be better, it doesn’t mean they want anyone to fail—they just want to score 100 percent when their co-worker scores 90, an attitude that pushes them to achieve greatness… and grow, ultimately pushing the company to grow.

The race to be better involves hard work—dedication that the executive team will eventually notice, and, in a lot of cases, leads to a promotion. But when running up against a teammate, landing the position can be uncomfortable, especially if your co-worker is also a close friend. Your team can either be happy or jealous, two outcomes that make the transition a unique experience for each employee.

Here are some universal ways to navigate a new management role:

1. Find a mentor. Whether it’s someone in the company, a friend or someone in your network, seek and connect with people who have been in the same situation—and who have pulled it off successfully.

Meet with them before the transition and then weekly during the first phase of your role change. Issues and questions will undoubtedly pop up, so keep meeting once a month for that first year. You’ll want to continue this dialogue of wisdom.

2. Have the hard conversation. Take peers out for drinks or coffee—outside of work—to address the change. It’s okay to ask, “This is a little weird, right?”

Make them feel more comfortable about it by sharing your insecurities. Tell them you want their honest feedback because you’re learning as you go. Good, valuable employees will see this as an opportunity, a chance to grow and develop… and form a close relationship with their new manager.

3. Be yourself. You were promoted for a reason, and more than likely, former peers recognize your hard work and contributions.

Don’t try to change previous work habits because it’s a new role. The only adjustment should be to work harder and smarter. Goofy employees shouldn’t change their personalities and develop a serious persona for the purpose of the role. If you and the team were extremely close friends beforehand, continue to build those relationships—don’t think managers can’t be friends with staff to a certain degree. Clearly, what was happening before the promotion was working, so stick with it.

4. Recall personal experiences. Take everything learned in your previous role—the concerns, what triggered stress, how victories were achieved—and use that information to help advance the team.

Some of the greatest leaders are those who start at the bottom because they understand the struggles, have been in the trenches, and empathize with the team.

5. Build new relationships. Not every team gets along, and that’s just a reality of today’s workforce. If relationships weren’t strong to begin with, make an extra effort to nurture them by reaching out and finding ways to build team camaraderie.

You want to be an effective leader, right? Check out 4 tips to be a better manager.