Peer Today, Boss Tomorrow

By Donna Farrugia, Executive Director of The Creative Group

As business conditions improve, many companies will be more apt to award promotions to their loyal and hard-working staff. If you’re one of these individuals, and have expressed interest in taking on a management role, don’t be surprised if one day you’re suddenly overseeing a group of in-house designers who were once your peers.

While transitioning into a supervisory role can be exciting, it also means a shift in dynamics with colleagues. Your success taking on a leadership role is dependent on building positive working relationships with direct reports and being able to exercise authority when necessary. Here are three tips for making the transition from peer to boss as smooth as possible:

  1. Seek support for your ideas. It’s smart to have a plan in mind for improving project flow through the creative department, but resist the temptation to implement major changes immediately. Exercising your newfound power without first getting staff buy-in can create animosity and sink morale. Instead, take some time to settle into the role. Position yourself as a thoughtful, strategic leader who values team members’ insights.
  2. Set the right tone. When one person in a close-knit group is selected for advancement, team members may display a range of reactions. Some might applaud the decision while others may brood. If a bitter colleague challenges your authority, address the behavior swiftly. You can nip attitude problems in the bud by making it crystal clear that attempts to undermine you will not be tolerated.
  3. Treat everyone equally. You may be closer with certain team members than others, but as everyone’s boss you have to keep a level playing field. You’ll damage your credibility if you continually assign the most exciting, high-profile projects to a select few. Perception is reality and anything that hints at favoritism can lead to conflict and resentment.

Finally, you may experience moments of self-doubt during your transition – it’s normal. But your employees will notice if you seem insecure. Remind yourself that you were chosen for the management role for a reason. Trust that you’re up to the job and project a confident – never cocky – attitude from day one.

Donna Farrugia is executive director of The Creative Group, a specialized staffing service placing interactive, design and marketing professionals with a variety of firms. More information, including online job-hunting services, candidate portfolios and The Creative Group’s award-winning career magazine, can be found at