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Learn How to Work With a Boss Who Used to Be Your Coworker

Welcoming a new boss can be complicated, especially when they used to be your coworker. How do you make a graceful transition from being a peer to being a direct report?

Whether you’ve been close allies or friendly rivals in the past, you can learn to thrive under the new leadership. Try these suggestions for restructuring your professional relationship.

Steps to Take With Your New Boss

1. Extend congratulations. Remember the obvious. This is the time to congratulate your former co-worker on their success. Be specific and sincere. Describe at least one quality or achievement that you admire about them. Express your enthusiasm about working together. Follow up with a quick email repeating your thoughts.

2. Decide on sharing personal information. Setting boundaries is a major part of the transition. You may find it necessary to be more discreet about family or health issues that could affect your career.

3. Offer support. Helping your boss succeed enhances your own future. Volunteer information that will help them to become familiar with their expanded responsibilities. Take responsibility for your actions and dazzle them with creative proposals.

4. Accept feedback. Your former peer will now be overseeing your work. Listen with an open mind and appreciate the guidance.

5. Schedule one-on-one meetings. Even if you have a long track record together, you may need opportunities for a private discussion. Ask questions and stress collaboration.

6. Create a learning opportunity. Your new boss must be doing something right if they received a promotion. Pay attention to how they operate and how senior management interacts with them. You may discover a role model for how you can succeed too.

Steps to Take for Yourself

1. Expect change. Even if you’re still dealing with old familiar faces, there will be different approaches and experiences ahead. Strive to accommodate the preferences of your new boss. You’ll be building goodwill that strengthens your connection.

2. Sort out your feelings. It’s natural to feel passed over when a colleague is promoted instead of you. That’s especially true if you wanted the position or if you’ve been with the company longer. Accept your emotions and make decisions that will enhance your professional reputation.

3. Avoid special treatment. Other employees may be uneasy if you’ve been close with the new boss. Be helpful and respectful with each team member to earn their confidence and trust. Take on tough assignments and share credit.

4. Clarify your intentions. You may need to examine your own motives as well in relation to your supervisor. Ask yourself if you value them for their personal strengths or if you’re trying to score advantages for yourself.

5. Squash gossip. New leadership is the kind of event that can trigger an increase in wild speculation and unfounded rumors. Stick to the facts and speak well of others.

6. Reassure yourself. Even positive changes can be stressful. Use this time to take care of yourself and stay strong. Relax with regular exercise and meditation. Give your body the rest and nutrition it needs. Draw on your strengths and remember your achievements.

7. Plan your exit. Then again, major changes at work can sometimes cause you to realize that it’s time to move on. If so, give appropriate notice and depart on good terms. You can ask your previous supervisor to serve as a reference if they’re more familiar with your work.

While your roles have changed, you already know your new boss from the time you’ve spent working side by side. Use your knowledge to make your new relationship supportive and productive. You’ll feel happier at work and enjoy more opportunities for advancement.

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