Human Resources Blog - Spark Hire

How to Manage Former Coworkers

You finally managed to pull that promotion and are now working as a manager. Perhaps you’ll even have the chance to hire your own team- giving you the opportunity to experience all of the hiring tips we share here on this blog. Another thing to think of now that you are a manager or employer is how you will interact with all of those in the office you used to call coworkers. Of course, they are still your coworkers, but now you are a tier above them. They may even be calling you boss now. This can be a bit odd at first, and those that are unprofessional will not know how to deal with it adequately.

If you find yourself in the position of managing those you once worked with, there are a number of pros and cons to the situation. For one, congratulations! You got the promotion you have wanted for such a long time, no doubt. What you have to remember though, first and foremost, is that you can’t possibly have the same relationship that you may have had with your coworkers before. If you are a manager now (and you are) then you have to be able to assume the new responsibility and treat all those under you fairly. In other words, just because 2 to 3 of your old coworker friends are now under you that doesn’t mean they should be treated better than the others under you that you don’t know quite as well yet.

To some degree, these work relationships will change. In the Careerist, Ben Williams, an Edinburgh-based corporate psychologist, states that, “The people who were previously your superiors will now be your peers. You will need to form new relationships with them too.” So as you can see, relationships for you in the office will be changing on all sides. You may need to pull a bit away from your old coworkers and start working towards building strong relationships with your new peers. Since you are now part of a different team, it is essential that you figure out what this team has to offer and how it operates.

Although you may need to pull away from your old peers a bit, that doesn’t mean you should disregard them completely and treat them badly now that you have received a promotion. In other words, don’t let this new position and promotion go to your head. Instead, build on the relationships and trust you have already fostered between them and be a great manager because of it. You may know that Kathy has extensive marketing knowledge and you have to make a decision that deals with the marketing side of things. Just because you are now her manager doesn’t mean that you can’t go up to Kathy and ask her for her advice. Asking former coworkers for their advice- especially when you know they know more than you on the subject- is a great way to build upon the relationships you already have. Plus, a good manager knows where they can get the best information on something specific from their team.

Just because you are now their manager doesn’t mean you can’t ask for advice. In fact, the Careerist states that this flatters them and humanizes you as their manager. This is a great position for a manager to be in. You never want your team to think that you don’t understand or that you no longer care for their opinion.

Another great thing you can do is to seek out management training. Just because you got the promotion doesn’t mean you are 100 percent ready to take on all of the responsibilities bestowed upon you. You may have all of the skills needed for the position, but you may have no idea how to manage people- especially those you previously worked with. Don’t be afraid to admit that you need some training if you do.

To avoid the possibility of giving unfair treatment to certain members of your team, you need to make roles and responsibilities very clear right from the start. That includes your own as well! Make sure that everyone on your team knows what their job is and what is expected of them. Make it clear to them what you expect and hold everyone in the same regard. As stated earlier, just because you were very close with Bob before your promotion doesn’t meant that Bob can get away with being chronically tardy everyday- while Phil gets reprimanded for doing the same. This can cause huge rifts in your team and reflects poorly on you as a manager.

Overall, remember to always be professional but don’t forget who you were before you received this promotion. Maintain good communication with your former colleagues and now team members, and continue to show interest in their own progression. Dole out praise when it’s deserved and use what you already know about these people to the advantage of the team. Good luck!

Have you ever had to manage former coworkers? Was it difficult? Share with us in the comments section below!

: Courtesy of Flickr by cdsessums

Nicole Nicholson

Nicole is the Content Editor for Spark Hire and mainly writes for and edits the work for the Spark News blog. She graduated in 2010 with a BA in Journalism from DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. She has a passion for writing, editing, and pretty much anything to do with content. In her free time she frequents the Chicago music scene and writes reviews on shows for her own personal blog. Connect with Nicole and Spark Hire on Facebook and Twitter