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Tips for When Peers Become Managers

Employees work at all levels of an organisation and inevitably, some will rise in ranks while others will not. Moving up in an organisation has its challenges and the chances that you will also be managing your former peers are very high. There could be frustration, jealousy or even hostility from some former colleagues.

So how should you manage your new role in harmony with managing your former peers?

Successful transitions begin prior to a promotion. Following the appropriate strategies, managers that are newly promoted will have a higher chance of gaining respect from former peers and keep the group moving forward.

In light of this, I will share with you some important tips that any newly promoted manager should take into consideration when managing former colleagues.


1. Get a head start

The way to gain respect from former peers as their newly promoted manager is to not wait until the moment that you have been promoted. The impacts on the future of your career can depend heavily on the things you do and the way you act in the present.

“If you are one of those folks that took two-hour lunches when you were supposed to have one hour, and you then get promoted, then guess what – everyone that worked with you knows it!” – Jeff Lyons

So instead of waiting for your promotion ask yourself, what kind of manager you would like to be known for throughout your transition? Once you have answered this, give yourself a challenge and establish those skills while you are still working on the same levels as your colleagues. As a result, peers will already have an idea of what to expect when you are promoted to become their new manager purely based on their past experience of working with you.


2. Step confidently into the new role (but remain humble)

Newly promoted managers should be proud. There is no reason to feel guilty that you are now managing the colleagues you used to work on the same level with. However, it is important to remain humble. Although you were the most suitable candidate for the position, you were not the only candidate for the position.


3. Establish authority

In your appointed managerial role, you should carefully establish your new authority without damaging any existing relationships; especially if your new direct reports are former peers. Communicate any changes clearly and effectively. An accessible method to help the process of your transition is to ask a more senior manager or the communications team to announce and provide support for your new position.


4. Have a two-way talk

If you are put in a position to manage your former peers, make sure to organise meetings (one on one) with your new direct reports. This will give them a chance to discuss or speak out about your role and ease the tenseness throughout the transition. The conversations in the meetings should focus on discussing expectations. Managers should discuss with your team how they can expect you to work and lead on their behalf. Leadership is not only defined as power, it is often considered as a service for those who work as your direct reports. Empower your team with two-way discussions about co-existing expectations. Express that you can now help them in a way you couldn’t when you were their peer. This will encourage collaboration towards a common objective if you are able to earn respect through this process for your former peers to understand your expectations.


5. Renegotiate friendships

When managing former colleagues that are also friends, there is no doubt that complications will exist. Through the transition process, it only seems natural to honour the friendships by dedicating extra care, openness and time to discussing how relationships will change. Be honest about the changes in your responsibilities and priorities and don’t forget to ask how your friends and former peers perceive their changes too. It is crucial to express your support for them along with their roles and gain loyalty in return. However, be sure to emphasise that there will be no bias or special treatment in the workplace.

You also need to be aware that some of your former colleagues may feel anger or disapproval towards your promotion. Such situations can be handled more easily if there is already a strong relationship with your team. Even so, it becomes harder for former colleagues to accept being your subordinate if they are your friends outside of the workplace. It is safer to remain friendly in the workplace whilst maintaining some degree of personal distance. Most importantly, treat your former colleagues the same way that you have always treated people who work for you. This will show them that your new promotion has not changed you into a different person.


Ultimately, moving up to a managerial level means new relationships, expectations, and judgements as well as new norms to adopt and adapt to. When managing former peers, it is critical to get a head start, prepare to establish authority, discuss expectations and re-negotiate any friendships. By following the tips above, you will give yourself and your former peers a better chance of a successful transition.


If you need assistance as an emerging leader, contact TMS Consulting today at

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TMS Consulting