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Managing Your Former Coworkers

By Emilie Shoop (1072 words)
Posted in Management on May 21, 2013

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By Emilie Shoop, Creator and Leader of Shoop Training & Consulting

Unless you work for a large organization, more often than not you were promoted into your leadership position from within your team.  You have now gone from co-worker, colleague, and confidant to the boss.  No matter how well you get along with your teammates, how much they wanted you to be the boss, or how good of friends you are outside of work, something changes when you become the manager or supervisor.


The first time that I became a manager, I had worked on the team for several years beforehand.  The situation was extra interesting because the current manager stepped down so I could step up into the position.  Now I was not only managing my former coworkers, I was managing my former boss.


At first I tried to keep everything the same, to not change things up too much.  There is a lot to be said about that and you will find many articles, books, and trainings that tell you not to make immediate or drastic changes.  However, that was a disservice to my team.


We had all been yearning for a change.  Our manager had not been leading us the way we wanted (or he wanted) to be led.  They were looking at me to step it up a notch…not keep it the same.


What I found was, as long as I kept our team culture the same, I could manage and lead in my own unique way and get the best results.  Our team always worked very well together.  When it came down to not wanting things to change, it was ultimately the culture that we wanted to remain the same.  We liked the feeling we had with working with one another, and did not want that to change.


If you run into resistance with your team as you step into your role, consider if you are changing the culture of your team. 


  • Did you all work together just fine before and now people can’t seem to get along?  

    Check and see if you changed a policy, procedure, or arrangement that made it harder on your team to cooperate.


  • Did your team used to laugh and joke together and now seem silent?  

    Check and see if you directly or indirectly implied that it is no longer ok for them to laugh and joke around.


  • Did your team usually work on problems well together, but now work alone and isolated?  

    Check to see if you set individual’s expectations in a way that made teamwork impossible or awkward.


It is easy to forget when you become a manager or supervisor for the first time that you are not the only one going through a change.  As much as you are worried about doing your job right by your team and manager, your former coworkers are now worried about impressing you as their boss.  Your team knew how to work for their previous manager.  Now that their new manager is you, even though they've worked beside you for years, they don’t know how to work for you yet.


I thought when I became the manager that it wouldn't bother anyone.  We would all keep working together like we had been before. Why would they be worried about reporting to me?  I thought they were all great.  Unfortunately, your team doesn't know what you will think of them when you put your manager or supervisor hat on.


A strong culture is the key to a happy and productive team.  If your team already has a strong culture, work to keep it that way as you shift the team from working with you to working for you.  On the other hand, if your culture is not so great, start with working to improve it first.  Everything else will be so much easier and fall into place much more naturally once you have an engaged and empowered team culture.


It turns out my team was most worried about the culture of our team changing.  They wanted to step up and be great individuals on the team as I became the leader, but they did not want to ruin our team culture in the process.  I was giving my team conflicting messages, and not truly being aware of their feelings.  This caused us some bumps in the road for sure.  But what I found was the more I paid attention to what I said versus what I meant, as well as how they reacted to me, the faster we got our groove back after the change. 


Stay mindful of your team and culture as you begin to manage your coworkers and you will be successful!


{#/pub/images/20120913174147_DSC_14831small.jpg}Written by Emilie Shoop, Creator and Leader of Shoop Training & Consulting A sought after Coach, Mompreneur, Strategist, Mentor, Speaker, Author, Trainer & Business Consultant, Emilie works with people who are ready for that next level of success, and realize how they work with people is KEY.  Her coaching will help you lead, delegate, sell, collaborate, perform, influence, and relate with people to launch your success to the next level. She provides clients, teams and organizations the skills and tools for leadership and professional excellence.

Do you have a management question for Emilie?  Post it in our First Time Manager/Supervisor Community and she will be happy to help: Ask an Expert


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Comments (3)

steve posted on: May 22, 2013

Wonderful blog

Rachid Bouwazra posted on: May 29, 2013

intersting document. I went through the management of the raised issue. it depends a lot on the culture, the team location, th eindustry and the type of work

Julia Winston posted on: June 17, 2013

Great point..."The change is new to everyone". the new leader has an opportunity to ease the tension of uncertainty simply by being honest.

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