Lonely at the Top

Lonely at the Top

When you become the boss, your former peers will fall into one of four categories: leavers, testers, passive resisters and boosters

Congratulations! You're the new boss. And your former colleagues don't like it

Congratulations! You have just been selected from among your team members to become the new CIO. A promotion is always exciting, but with it comes this challenge: how to get off to a good start as the new boss of your former colleagues.

Don't assume that your existing relationships with colleagues will continue as before. Some of them who also aspired to the position may be jealous. Former pals may no longer welcome you to their social gatherings. A resentful few may even try to sabotage you.

Meanwhile, you may have to treat differently those who remain your friends so that you don't appear to be playing favourites. And you will have a new set of alliances to build among both former colleagues and the senior managers whose ranks you have joined. Navigate these obstacles successfully, and you'll be able to enjoy the new opportunities available to you to grow as a leader and have a lasting impact on your organization.

Passive-Aggressive Colleagues

When you become the boss, your former peers will fall into one of four categories: leavers, testers, passive resisters and boosters.

Leavers are those who, for a variety of reasons, won't stick around. Let them go. Holding on to people who have already psychologically separated themselves from the organization is, at best, a temporary victory. At worst, you have marginally motivated employees who are probably second-guessing their decisions to stay. You will find it easier to rally the organization behind you when those who are dissatisfied are gone.

Testers are uncertain about your leadership. They will find ways to challenge your style of management and your expectations of your staff. Testing is normal and can be used to develop constructive relationships with your former peers. In your response to such challenges, the organization gets to see how you operate. Deal with testers by being patient. Take every opportunity to clarify your positions. Support experimentation by your staff as they learn how to meet your expectations.

Passive resisters will test your patience as they disagree with every idea. Even when they express agreement, they will often follow their own agenda anyway. Get passive resisters in-line by encouraging them to, according to the adage, "lead, follow or get out of the way".

I remember one instance in which a former colleague was continually undermining me outside the office with his associates. I engaged him in a brief discussion, during which I told him he should bring his disagreements to me personally. I informed him that much of what he said outside the office got back to me, and who knew if it was translated effectively? A few examples proved my point. The public attacks stopped, and we were able to develop a constructive relationship. He learned that I would work with him on issues he brought to me personally.

Boosters are those who are happy to be working with you, and they'll tout your leadership to others. Boosters can be anywhere in the company, from the CEO to an entry-level employee. They are your allies because some connection (an idea you shared, a joint accomplishment or a compatible personality) has created a positive relationship. Nurture relationships with your boosters, and they can be your advocates whenever you need support.

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