Mitigating Post-Promotion Fallout

Posted March 28, 2018 in Member Spotlight

It goes without saying that if you aspire to be in a leadership position, at some point you’ll likely face the situation where you find yourself being promoted among your peers.

The transition from peer to manager can be challenging and awkward. It may change the dynamic in some of your working relationships. So, how can you get off on the right foot and minimize the fallout? Here are some tips from our Roundtable Mentors, Lisa Kimmel, Canadian President and CEO of Edelman, and Kate Salmon, Communications Consultant:

Value your subject matter experts:  Former peers may be your greatest allies when it comes to cultivating a team to support you in your new role. Particularly if you’ve been promoted to lead a large organization, it’s not reasonable to expect that you’ll suddenly have the same breadth of knowledge as your former peers who may have specialized in specific areas of expertise for many years. Acknowledge and embrace the strengths of your colleagues and let them know their position of strength in helping to advance the business is valued. You’ll further their trust in your leadership by demonstrating how much you value their knowledge and support.

Don’t be afraid to lead: As much as it’s important to let others feel valued, it’s just as important to establish your leadership. People want leaders to lead – and it’s important to make your mark with some immediate positive changes rather than a “wait and see” approach, which employees may interpret as a fear of making mistakes.

Acknowledge that change is difficult: A promotion is a business decision, just like every other change that happens at your company. And change often makes people nervous – and even unhappy, particularly if someone else was really hoping for the promotion you ultimately secured. Acknowledge any concerns brought forward to you by your former peers, and then come up with an action plan to address them, even if you don’t have all the answers. They’ll appreciate your transparency, and you’ll continue to build a foundation of trust.

Keep communication open: When making decisions, be sure to share your rationale and give your team an opportunity to weigh in and ask questions. Provide a regular platform to talk about how they’re doing and set an example by being open and honest with them. You will be surprised by what you hear.

Expect that some relationships will change: There may be some relationships that will change with the shift from a peer relationship to a reporting relationship. If you’re feeling concerned about maintaining a specific relationship, be proactive in an honest and candid conversation with that inidividual. Explore how they feel about the new working relationship; share what expectations you have of each other; and agree on how you want to work together in this newly defined realationship. This may be an uncomfortable conversation, but it will be worth it.

Distance yourself from your former position: Transitions can be as long or as short as you want. Keep it short. If people keep coming to you with questions about things you were previously responsible for, re-direct them to your successor, even if you have the answer they need. Be a partner, not a micro-manager. Distancing yourself from your former position also gives your replacement the leeway to make his/her own mark.

Promotions are great reasons to celebrate – but even more so if you’re thoughtful about how best to take the lead. And, if things feel a little bit awkward, be brave and be vulnerable. Trust yourself, and trust the people who put you in this position in the first place. They knew you could handle it!


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