Managing Relationships After a Promotion 

You did it. All that hard work finally paid off and you got that promotion you were dreaming about. With it comes more responsibility, new peers, and possibly direct reports. While this is a great, new opportunity, it might change the relationships you have with your friends and colleagues at work. How you navigate the transition can make a big difference in keeping those relationships healthy.

Manage Communication
First and foremost, find out from your new supervisor how others are being told of the promotion. It is best if the announcement comes from Human Resources or your supervisor, and is sent to all employees with details on any organizational changes, your new responsibilities, and when the promotion takes effect. In an ideal environment, your new manager should communicate to any other candidates that you got the job before the communication is made public. If you have strong friendships with any of the other candidates, you should approach them yourself before the announcement goes out.

Once the announcement has been made, immediately schedule a meeting with your new team. Explain the goals for the department and how those goals will be measured. Explain your role, and any changes in the way they do their jobs. Get feedback. Assuming you are inheriting a well-performing group, look at your employees as experts in what they do. Recognize that they might be anxious about this change; begin a dialogue that will help reach the department goals while getting to understand the individuals on your team, their strengths, and the issues they face when doing their day-to-day jobs. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!

Talk to your new boss, as well, to get an understanding of how he or she likes to work, communications style, and your level of autonomy in the new role. Obviously, you’ve been talking to the new boss prior to the announcement, but since  the decision was made and the promotion assigned, help ensure your mutual success by establishing good communication up front.

Behavior Around the Office
Your new position may require you to make some changes in your behavior. Before, it may have been acceptable to vent with colleagues about office politics or share your opinion with peers about a new policy. Now, you probably need to show some diplomacy and stay out of those conversations. As a boss, you should never talk about employees in an unprofessional manner. This includes comments on their appearance, details about personal lives, salary information, or work performance.

In the past, a beer after work with friends may have been a great way to blow off some steam and have a good time. However, unless other management is going or it’s a defined work event, you should probably skip it. Too much time partying and seemingly losing control with others outside the office can undermine your authority. Think about it before you head off to lunch with a buddy, as well, particularly if the person reports to you. Even though nothing outside the fact that two friends are having lunch is going on, “appearances” can be negative at times. It may be more appropriate to go out in a group.

Friends and Promotions
No matter what, friendships will have to change at some level. It is best to be up front and open with friends regarding these changes. You need to create clear boundaries between work and friendship. Your relationship at work will have to change because you must treat everyone with equal respect and not show favoritism. That doesn’t mean you can’t laugh and have fun with them; just be careful not to show bias and try to be professional at all times.

As management, you will have information you can’t share with employees. Being in a position of authority requires some detachment from others and a broad perspective on what’s best for the health of the company. Friends may pressure you to share what you know, but to do so would jeopardize your career.

When Your Friend Reports to You
One of the most uncomfortable, awkward situations with regard to a promotion is when you have friends reporting to you. Again, clear communication in this situation is a must. Ensure they know you care and respect them, and that you will treat them fairly without favoritism.

Be aware that you may have a tendency to be too hard or too lenient on a friend. “Oh, John will help me get this done. He won’t mind putting in extra work.” Or, “I can’t believe the shoddy work that John has been doing. This is not up to standards at all.” Make an effort to be objective and evaluate your friends’ performance based on the person’s actual work and contribution.

Healthy workplace relationships are vital to your happiness and success. Being promoted doesn’t spell the end of those relationships; all it means is a change in how the friendship is structured. It may take patience, but remember that while you are adjusting to your new role and the new rules of engagement with peers, direct reports, and friends, your friends are adjusting as well.


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