From Colleague to Boss…

April 6, 2018

Laura shares her top tips on transitioning from colleague to boss.

cartoon image of spacemen with briefcases.

By Laura Rigby

Having joined HR180 straight out of University to become an HR assistant, I was very proud to be promoted to a junior HR manager two years later with the responsibility for one direct report.

Looking back at my experience, I can honestly say that one of the hardest transitions was from being a colleague to becoming a boss, particularly in such a family-feel environment within which I had built so many close relationships. How was I supposed to balance the close relationships I had formed with my colleagues yet be their superior – delegate, give direction and manage performance?

I now know that this is a common concern for those new to a leadership role and there can be a tendency to either be too domineering whilst settling in to the position, just to stamp authority or to be ‘Mr Nice Guy’ for fear of upsetting the apple cart. However, these methods of leadership aren’t known for being overly successful and can leave you with a reputation that is hard to shake.

Here are my top tips to enable a smooth transition from colleague to boss:

Be available

Don’t hide away in your brand new swanky office. Be visible and be involved with your team. The more engaged you are with them and their work, the more they’ll be motivated to do well. Plus, there is the added benefit of getting to know each other’s quirks, preferences and working styles. Which leads me on to my next point…

Learn Situational Leadership

A must-have skill for any manager – to adjust your style of leadership depending on circumstance and/or the individual. Situational Leadership has four main elements:

  • To understand the situation, you’re trying to influence.
  • To adapt your behaviour in response to the situation.
  • To communicate with those involved in a manner they can understand and accept.
  • To deliver or manage the required actions.


Situational leadership encourages managers to have a flexible approach and maximise their influence by being able to respond to the demands of an increasingly diverse workforce. One size certainly does not fit all.

Carry out 121s

Spend regular one on one time with each individual reporting to you. This will encourage mutual trust and confidence and create an appropriate environment for feedback.


Communicate openly – about the good, the bad and the ugly. Good communication is the key to success.

Mistakes make you human – it’s how you handle them that matters

It’s ok to make mistakes – after all you’re new to management! You’ll not know the answer to everything and you won’t always get it right. Even the most experienced manager’s make mistakes. Once you’ve accepted this, you’ll realise that it’s best to own up to errors, rectify them and move on. This way your team will respect you and know that you’re not a robot!

If in doubt, common sense prevails!

If all else fails, use your noggin’… think – what would I expect from my manager in this situation?

At first these behaviours might seem forced, but the more you practice them, the more likely they will become habit and second nature and the more confident you’ll get in your abilities as a manger. After all, you didn’t get promoted for nothing!

Leeds based HR180 is a team of superheroes in HR Outsourcing, Projects and Consultancy committed to work in partnership with organisations of all sizes to establish working policies to go above and beyond Employment Law requirements, to protect both employees and employers alike. We love to hear from you, so call us on 0113 287 8150 or hit the Rescue Me button.

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