NextGen Know-How: How to successfully manage a former peer

Redesign your relationship to instill accountability while still being approachable and supportive

One of the challenges I faced when I was first promoted to a management role was managing a co-worker who, up until my promotion, was a peer. Although she was supportive, it was uncomfortable and changed the dynamic of our relationship. We both knew that ultimately, I was now her manager, and that I would be conducting her performance evaluation. I struggled initially to manage the changes in our relationship. I find this is true for most leaders who shift to managing a former peer: Many managers avoid the elephant in the room, and because they are uncomfortable, act like nothing has changed. This is a missed opportunity to redesign the relationship in a positive way.

Managing a former peer can certainly be awkward, but one of the best things you can do when you move into the management role is to meet and discuss how your relationship will work going forward. Begin the conversation by saying you value your relationship as co-workers and look forward to being able to continue working together. Use this conversation to form a partnership with your colleague. Then focus on asking questions to understand the person’s goals and challenges.

For example, you might say:


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