Career Advice: 5 Tips for a Smooth Transition to Management

Getting promoted to a management role is cause for celebration. But as many creative professionals have learned, going from “coworker” to “boss” can lead to some sticky situations and unique challenges, particularly if you work in a close or competitive environment.

Here are five tips on making the switch as smooth as possible:

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1. Open the lines of communication. Change can be hard for all parties involved, so communication is key. One of the first items on your to-do list should be calling a team meeting to get everyone moving in the same direction. Your direct reports need to understand your top priorities in your new position – and what you expect from them. Mention that your door will remain open for one-on-one discussions if anyone has questions or concerns.

2. Don’t play favorites. Gain the trust and loyalty of your staff by managing in a fair and consistent manner from day one. You’re probably tighter with certain teammates, but as the boss, it’s critical you maintain a level playing field. Doling out choice assignments to a select few or relaxing the rules “just once” to accommodate a friend can lead to conflict and incite complaints of favoritism. In fact, any behavior that even hints at preferential treatment can damage your credibility. As the saying goes, perception is reality. This means you’ll likely need to establish new boundaries with the individuals you’re closest with. This might feel awkward at first, and it’s OK to acknowledge it with your best work pals. Open, honest conversations will help everyone adjust.

3. Ease into the role. Resist the urge to institute major changes right out of the gate. Flexing your newfound power without carefully surveying the big picture or soliciting staff input can hurt morale. Take some time to find your footing. Position yourself as a thoughtful and strategic manager who values the insights of others. Yes, you’re the ultimate decision maker now, but you’ll earn more respect by reaching out, gathering information and listening to your team than you will if you immediately make sweeping changes in a vacuum.

4. Nip problems in the bud. Some people will applaud your promotion and get on board quickly, but others might let their bruised egos and bitterness get the best of them. Colleagues who believe they deserved the job may challenge your authority, question your decisions, gossip or simply display an all-around bad attitude. If this occurs, it’s important to swiftly address (and potentially document) the problems. Set a no-nonsense tone early and maintain your authority. If people view you as a doormat initially, it can be hard to change their views later on.

5. Have faith in your abilities. While some newly promoted managers falter because of overconfidence, others struggle due to insecurity. At times you may feel nervous about assuming this higher-level position or wonder if someone else on the team possesses stronger leadership abilities. It’s normal to encounter moments of self-doubt as you acclimate to your new role and responsibilities. The key is to remember you were chosen for a reason. Your boss obviously feels you have the necessary skills and attributes to succeed. Trust his or her judgment.

The bottom line is that if you seem unsure of yourself, your employees will pick up on it. Be mindful that what seems overwhelming today will become more manageable as you settle in. In short, keep your cool and project a quiet confidence. If you believe in yourself, others will, too.

HOW Magazine July 2013Want more advice on your interactive design career? Check out the new issue of HOW Magazine. It’s all about interactive design and typography–with tips on how to take your design career further.