Originally created 12/14/03

Brannen: Managing former peers a problem with promotion

When a person is promoted from within to a management position, the person often mistakenly continues to treat employees as co-workers, putting the new manager in an awkward relationship situation.

Is the role of the new manager buddy or boss, or a boss during work hours and buddy afterwards, or both all the time?

When both roles coexist, managers might not make the difficult and unpopular decisions necessary for effective management. Employees can be confused by never knowing whether "boss" or "buddy" will show up in a given situation.

This is why some organizations promote a person, but not to manage former peers.

Managers and employees have distinct roles and therefore a positional difference exists, notwithstanding the current use of such terms as " associate" and "team member" in place of employee.

Reducing the perceived positional differences has benefits up to a point, but has an army ever been victorious where the private and the general are equals in authority?

One way to handle the changed role from peer to manager is to address it openly. You can begin by explaining the advantage of being from the group and knowing the work, people and issues. Next, explain that your new role requires making difficult decisions that might not be liked by all. Also, that as a member of management, you must support and implement higher management decisions, even if you personally might not agree.

Being the boss does not mean one cannot have social relationships with employees. However, for managers, the company Christmas party or picnic is not entirely social. In that situation the relationship is still business and professional, just as it was the day before the party and how it will be the day after the party.

The manager can no longer be part of the office gossip, which is cliquish behavior that is inconsistent with equal support of all employees. No longer should the manager participate in the sport of bashing top management. This undermines the manager's respect and ability to carry out top management policies.

Some go too far in establishing positional differences because they are full of themselves and impressed with their status. It is not uncommon to confuse positional difference with distance. Managerial roles are simply different, not better nor higher.

Even with our history of equalitarianism and our culture of individualism, there are those who must decide and those who must do.

Dalton E. Brannen is a certified senior professional of human resource management and a professor of business management at Augusta State University's College of Business Administration.


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