The emotion of promotion

16 Jun 2010

Going from being a co-worker and ‘one of the gang’ to the boss can completely change how you and your colleagues interact with each other. It’s important to be prepared and to handle the change with confidence and decorum.

A promotion is of course good news, representing a step up both in terms of remuneration and professional standing, and confirming that you are well thought of in your place of work. However, it can also mean that your demeanourat work may have to change somewhat, and the old free-flowing banter with colleagues is likely to take a hit.

If you are fortunate, all will go smoothly. But you must also be prepared for the possibility that you may have to be critical of your friends’ work, or even let them go, should the need arise. You may also meet with resentment that you got the promotion ahead of others. And, even if you don’t come across these problems, at the very least your work buddies will be more careful about what they say to you, and what conversations they include you in.

Carol Ann Casey, MD of CA Consulting, says the best approach to take to a promotion is to be “confident and dignified” and not to talk too much about the fact that you have been promoted. “Don’t change your behaviour, be as natural as possible and practise what you preach. Have one-to-one sessions with the people now reporting to you to show them you care and that there are common work goals to which each of them is integral.”

She warns against showing favouritism towards those you were friends with before your promotion. “Overtly favouring one person above another for no reason, ie for who they are as opposed to their skills or expertise, can be damaging for a new manager. The last thing you want is to have a claim for unfair treatment held against you. So you need to be careful not to have a ‘teacher’s pet’, as this will do neither you nor your colleague any favours. Treat all of your staff with mutual respect and fairness.”

That is not to say that the day you take up your new role you should cut off all of your former friendships without so much as a backward glance. “Being realistic, people are going to be friendly with the people they work with, and employers cannot change this. However, I always advise decorum, and above all an awareness that one day you may have to terminate that person’s employment because of incompetence or some other reason.

“Therefore, when out socially or at lunch, do not divulge too much personal information. Always be dignified and never, ever get drunk. Your aim is to laugh with your staff rather than have them laugh at you.”

And however you approach your new role, do not discuss it, or other colleagues, with anyone at work, not even those you were closest to before your promotion. “Generally, most people have agendas at work, so be careful of what you say and to whom, as your alleged friends at work may not be your real friends when it comes to their promotion versus your promotion, for example. Stay focused on being successful in your role; that means delivering good results, having pleasant interpersonal skills and being a fair team player.”

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