You just got promoted! What happens to your work relationships now?
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You just got promoted! What happens to your work relationships now?

1 year ago · 3 min read

Congratulations! You’ve put in the work and earned that promotion. Other than new responsibilities, what does that mean? New peers, maybe new direct reports, and probably changes to old relationships.

How you handle these changes can make a big difference in keeping those relationships healthy. Your relationships with people shouldn’t necessarily change. What gets communicated and how you act potentially should.

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, including 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, 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!

Do your research

Ask people in the same position, or people that were in that position, what they found to be the most difficult and what they did that helped. Think about the observations you made of your supervisors while earning your promotion and choose what you felt worked best and the things that you felt did not work so well.

Perform your due diligence and decide for yourself what you feel is appropriate. Regardless of what you decide, remember you’ll experience learning moments one way or the other.

Friends and direct reports

Promotions can lead to disgruntled friends or direct reports who did not get promoted. This can lead to awkward moments when you are asked about certain things you are unable to disclose. The easiest way to maintain a relationship with your friends and direct reports is to establish clear boundaries.

While it should be clear from the get-go, explicitly let your friends and direct reports know that you can’t share everything and if you can’t share it, you’ll let them know up front that it’s not shareable. Your friends and direct reports should understand and appreciate your boundaries.

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.

When your friend reports to you

The key here is to keep it professional. If your interactions look like favoritism, call yourself out and make the necessary change(s).

If you can’t tell, ask your new peers to provide you with feedback. If you want to take it a step further, ask your friend’s peers. Create a safe space where you can ask these types of questions to get the honest feedback you seek.

Also be aware that you may tend to be harder 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.” Try to be objective and evaluate your friends’ performance based on the person’s actual work and contribution.

You’re the boss, not king

You worked hard to earn the promotion, but it doesn’t make you royalty. Celebrate your achievement but remember the people that helped get you there and how you felt while not being in the position you’re now in. Show empathy to those around you and help guide them to where they want to be.


This article is brought to you by the AICPA Diversity & Inclusion Team. For inquiries about this or other D&I topics, contact Diversity@aicpa.org.

Eugene Park, CPA

Eugene is an audit partner with Heinfeld, Meech & Co. P.C. His responsibilities include overseeing several nonprofit and governmental audit engagements the professional development of staff associates, and serving as the lead recruiter for the Phoenix office. He has served as a member of several committees within the firm, including audit and accounting, client conference planning, wellness and fun committees. In addition to his responsibilities above, he serves on the AICPA’s Young Member Leadership Committee, ASCPA’s Leadership and Growth Alliance Committee and will begin his first term on the board of directors for the ASCPA in May.

Eugene graduated from the University of Arizona with a B.S. in accounting. He also earned the AICPA Advanced Single Audit Certificate in 2016. He is a 2019 graduate from the AICPA Leadership Academy.

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