From Co-Worker to Boss


Handshake - 20141009 - 2Congratulations!  You have just been promoted to manager in your department or at your company. Or, maybe you have made the decision to start your own company and many of your co-workers have such faith in you that they are joining you in your new venture.

You are about to start one of the biggest challenges of your life. You are moving from co-worker / friend to BOSS!

You remember all those late night phone calls with co-workers, after work drinks or quick conversations during lunch or in the hall about the boss and how each of you could do a better job? They aren’t going to stop. You are just no longer invited to the conversations because the conversation is about YOU.

I have been there and done that and frankly, failed miserably. This is not about what I did right or even wrong but what I would do differently if I had to do this over again.

Conversation - 1First, accept the fact that the conversation is happening and move on. Not every decision you will make will be popular and not every decision will be right. Remember you have information that your team members don’t have and that you are not perfect. You cannot stop them from meeting after work, or at lunch. Let it go.

Use what information you already have from those sessions in which you did participate. What did your co-workers really like about the previous boss? Maybe they always appreciated the fact that birthdays and work anniversaries were special occasions. The boss may have treated everyone to something special after the completion of big projects. Lunch or chair massages or gift cards. Go beyond duplicating, expand.

Can you make changes to what wasn’t liked? If so, implement those changes, if not, let them know you understand their concerns; however, changes can’t be made at this time. Don’t ignore the elephant in the room, especially when the elephant has to stay in the room. Focus on what can be changed and make it happen as quickly as possible.

Remember those discussions were not all about work. Take the time to ask about the families, hobbies, concerns of your team. Let them know you still care. It makes a difference.

Support Group - 1Find a new support group. You miss hanging out with the “gang”. Find a networking group that will bring you in contact with others in a similar position that you currently hold or even higher.

Find a mentor and hire a coach. A mentor, either internally or externally from the company, can be your sounding board when you have to make difficult decisions or have concerns. A coach can help you set goals and keep you accountable. This is money well spent. Some companies will pay for this coach, if not, look at this as an investment in yourself and spend the money and the time to make it work.

Do not have an open door policy – at least for the first few months. It is easy for former co-workers to forget you are the boss and stop by your office to chat. Let everyone know that you want to hear about their ideas and concerns and when you meet you want to ensure you give them your full attention. Have them block some time on your calendar and when they arrive, be prepared to give them that undivided attention. Meet away from your desk or turn off your computer monitor and notifications so that you are not distracted.

Secrets - 1You have inside information on each of your team members. Use the positive to grow that team member and do not let the negative influence you or your decisions. Remember, they have information about you that you don’t want them using to judge your current performance.

It is much harder when one of your team members is your best friend. This doesn’t mean you can’t be friends but be careful to keep your outside interactions non-work related. Have a No Discussing Work policy in place or you might share information that you shouldn’t or start to engage in gossip about other team members or your boss. (especially after a drink or two). Don’t hide the fact from the rest of the team that you were together this weekend. They know and if you try and hide the information, it becomes a bigger issue.

If you want to move ahead in the company for which you currently work, start putting these suggestions into practice. My mother always told me to dress for the job you want. I am adding to that, act like the boss you want to be, even if you are not there yet.

Be prepared to lose a few “friends” in the transition. In the end, they probably were not true friends anyway.

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Susan M. Repka, is Executive Director for the Women Contractors Association (WCA). Since joining the organization in April 2013, Susan has increased the membership of the organization by over 70%.

Prior to the WCA, Susan served many capacities within the Women’s Business Enterprise Alliance (WBEA) for over 14 years, including being named as Executive Director in 2007. She served as the Certification Manager from 2001 to 2007, where she led the certification process of all women business enterprises (WBEs). In 2005, Susan was named Assistant Director in addition to her duties as Certification Manager. While serving as Certification Manager for WBEA, the organization grew from 200 members to 750 members. Susan has had the honor of interviewing hundreds of women business owners during the certification processes. These interviews have given Susan an insight into challenges and joys of entrepreneurship in many industries and business sizes.

While Executive Director of WBEA, Susan served on the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council’s Board of Directors and the GPC Board of Directors. In addition she served on the Advisory Boards of the Texas Business Alliance and the Houston Area Score.

In 2010 Susan was named one of Houston’s Most Influential Women by the Houston Woman Magazine; One of the Top 25 Women of Houston by and was nominated for Sterling Bank Inspiring Texas Women Award. Susan is also a graduate of Leadership Houston, Class XXXI. She was also named as one of the 2013 Top 30 Influential Women of Houston by

Prior to joining WBEA in 1998, Susan worked in the College of Business at Prairie View A & M University.

Susan lives in Hempstead, Texas and is happily married with two grown children, and proud grandmother to six active grandchildren.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.