What To Do When a Subordinate Is Promoted To Manager
By Jacquie Wise
Having a former team member who reported to you transition into being a manager of equal standing can be a challenging adjustment, as you redefine the relationship. There are 12 things you can do to make the working relationship a success.
Imagine how you would feel in this situation: You’ve been managing a large team with great success, receiving acknowledgement for your good work. It’s a heavy workload, requiring hours of late-night and weekend work.
Suddenly, without any consultation, one of your team members, whom you like, is promoted to manager of equal standing to work on the same outcomes. Your team is split into two sections, one section reporting to her instead of to you. You are now both equals.
Many workplace problems begin with bad management
There is no question that senior management dealt with this situation very badly, because there was no warning of their intended plan, no discussion and no agreement.
Perhaps their intention was to ease a heavy workload by splitting the responsibility, but without any explanation, it does have the impact of undermining the person who was doing an excellent job.
If you’re a manager reading this, take note that it is absolutely not acceptable to make any changes to a team without prior discussion with the team leader. Yet it happens all too often, as in this case. Remember that people don’t leave a job, they usually leave a bad manager.
How should you handle it?
There are six things you should NOT do, and six things you should do if you find yourself in a similar position.
Six essential things not to do
1. Of course you might feel angry or hurt, but don’t ruminate and fabricate reasons.
And beware of allowing yourself to become resentful. It will only reflect badly on your work and on you, personally and professionally.
2. Don’t let this change undermine your confidence. Your work is still respected and the move might have been made to take some of the load off your shoulders. Find out before you jump to conclusions.
3. Don’t complain to other colleagues. Keep your frustrations to yourself, or you may be seen as jealous and it will reflect badly on you.
4. The team members who once reported to you may have conflicted loyalties. Don’t put them in an even more difficult position by trying to continue to direct them. Some may even lose respect for you if you turn bitter and divisive. Any directives to the team need to be made through their manager. That’s one of the guidelines, both ways.
5. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to show your colleague up by immature ploys, such as sabotage, withholding information, broadcasting mistakes and whatever other games petty people play. Don’t be the one who’s seen to be petty.
6. Don’t let this change ruin the friendship you’ve had with this person. You can still maintain friendly interaction at work, and maybe even outside of working hours.
Six Essential things to do
1. Congratulate the person who has been promoted. You did have a good relationship before, so work to preserve that and maintain it as you work together in equal roles. If your company does not have a no-fraternization policy, there’s no reason you can’t continue the friendship outside of working hours. It’s best to minimise work discussions in private time.
2. Discuss the change with her and what your expectations are of working together. How often do you want to meet? How will you share information so both teams are well informed? How may individual responsibilities change? What are the guidelines.
Plan to both hold a team meeting and together convey the guidelines to the team. Allow the team to ask questions and clarify uncertainties. If you haven’t done this early, never mind. Tell the teams you were figuring things out and are now ready to clarify expectations.
3. If problems or complaints arise, be ready to discuss them constructively with your colleague, with a suggested solution ready. Model the behaviour you expect from others.
4. Encourage open communication by keeping your colleague informed of progress and ensuring you are equally kept informed of what the other half is doing. Remember you’re both working for the same company, the same projects and the same outcomes. Your success as individuals depends on the success of the other.
5. Have an informal chat to senior management—whoever instigated this change. Let them know the impact it has had on your confidence and ask for their reasons. Get rid of any assumptions. It may well put your mind at rest. Ensure your position description hasn’t changed. Request that any future changes be discussed with you before they are implemented.
6. Continue to promote your own efforts and successes. Inform key people in the company of what you are working on and your achievements so far. Make sure your name is added to any list of contributors. It’s not enough to be acknowledged and thanked verbally. It needs to be in writing as well. For example, your name needs to be on reports as a contributor or researcher. Ask for public acknowledgement.
Have you experienced anything similar? I’d love to hear your stories or feedback.
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