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By Patricia Mish Managing editor, FAITH Grand Rapids | January 2023

Making the Transition From Peer to Supervisor

I love my team! We enjoy birthday lunches, happy hours and coffee-break talk. Thanks to a recent promotion, I’m now manager of our department. How do I navigate going from peer to supervisor?

Congratulations! What an exciting new chapter. In addition to the usual butterflies you may feel as you begin a new role, I can imagine the social dynamic might seem awkward at first.

Take heart: Chances are, your peers already recognize you as a leader. Your leadership skills and ability to communicate well with others almost certainly factored into your promotion.

That said, both you and your co-workers will need to adjust.

This is where the concept of “servant leadership” can set a tone that will help you and your team navigate this change. In a homily in 2016, Pope Francis said this: “Jesus taught us that he who commands must become like one who serves. Or, if one wants to be first he must be the servant of all.”

What does that look like in real life?


You may worry that your former peers might challenge your authority, either consciously or unconsciously. However, that’s unlikely to happen in a culture where employees feel respected and valued. How do you develop that type of culture? Communicate openly and set clear expectations. At the same time, invite feedback from your team and draw on their strengths as you set goals and assign tasks.

When workplace issues arise, you can build on the foundation of trust you have built. Have a direct conversation, but let your employee know you care about them and want to help them overcome any obstacles they may be facing.

What about social gatherings? Your team members may relate to you differently now or hesitate to invite you to happy hours and the like. If you do continue to socialize together, make it clear that you’re not supervising their social time. You’ll find that happy medium.

Remember, not everyone aspires to be boss. Chances are that most team members are pleased to see you in a leadership position and welcome your vision and direction.

As you move forward, you can develop a culture of collaboration that draws on the gifts of each team member. As St. Paul writes, “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves.” (Phil 2: 3)