One of the best moments in my career occurred the day I was promoted from a paralegal in the firm to office manager. I still maintained cases; however, I now had the added responsibility of managing the other paralegals and staff in the law firm. The promotion was a significant advancement and I was excited and nervous about my new duties. Unfortunately, I had no idea that my most challenging responsibility would be dealing with the very women I considered my friends. Many women will face this exact situation during their careers – – being promoted to a position where they are now responsible for managing their previous peers. This transition can be stressful because of jealousy and awkwardness.
I stepped into the role of office manager and assumed all of the darts and stones that were thrown at the person who held the position. No longer was I one of the “girls” but I was now the despicable “OM” who kept track of their hours, reviewed their work and prevented them from playing online and chatting about their personal lives. It was a difficult move from being a peer to being a manager and I felt lonely, ostracized and angry. Yes, I was angry because the very women I had cried and laughed with no longer considered me worthy of sharing their lives. On the other hand, the ones that wanted to remain friends felt they could take advantage of that friendship by coming in late, leaving early or turning in work late. The transition of becoming a manager may be difficult but there are some tips that can ease the change for you and your former peers.
Remain professional – The urge to gossip, vent and chat was overwhelming sometimes but as a manager I could not give into those impulses. I reached out to other office managers in local firms for advice and support. Treat your co-workers as you wanted to be treated by your previous Office Manager by being polite but keep the personal stuff to yourself.
Be upfront with staff from the beginning – Meet with each staff person as soon as possible after your promotion to set the ground rules and let them know what you expect. Review office policies with each person in addition to the duties and responsibilities of their individual jobs so everyone knows what you expect. However, remember you may have more authority and you are responsible for their productivity but you should not talk down to staff nor treat them as if they do not have any common sense at all. Give your staff the opportunity to share with you any issues they may have and resolve those now before they fester and become a bigger problem for you and your staff.
Be fair – Do not let personal friendships, or old hostilities, influence your management of staff. Some co-workers may feel entitled to special consideration because of your previous friendship – – do not give in to your feelings and let them “slide”. On the other hand, co-workers that you may have battled when you were peers do not deserve to be treated any differently now that you are their manager.
Do not forget to learn – In my case, I realized that an old dog could learn new tricks or something like that. I did not have the background or experience I needed to be an effective manager; therefore, I took classes and continuing education seminars. These resources helped me learn how to become a better manager and help my staff perform at their highest level. The best managers know they can do better by learning too!
Read more from Sophie Walton:
Before Quitting your Job you Need to Ask Yourself These Questions
Should We Advocate Career Flirting as a Career Asset?
Developing Interpersonal Skills in the Office