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Science Careers Blog

April 24, 2008

From Now on, I'm the Boss

Being picked by your colleagues to become their boss is one of the toughest challenges you'll face in your career, writes Marie Peronnau in the French finance online magazine Capital.fr. "This indeed requires asserting your authority, changing your image, and adding some distance to emotional relationships that have now become burdensome," Peronnau continues. This is especially true for industry careers, but similar situations may occur in the academic world. I´m taking the liberty of translating and summarizing Peronnau's key points:

  • "Assert your legitimity as quickly as possible." Inform your colleagues of your new position before they hear it in a formal announcement. Make new rules of the game, new targets, and other changes clear to your colleagues in department and one-to-one meetings.

  • "Spot the jealous ones to prevent them from doing any harm." Manage disapointment, jealousy, and any other negative feelings openly before they damage the working atmosphere and productivity. Be diplomatic, and show your confidence in the competences of the people who resent your promotion. If hostility remains, ask for advice to your superiors, but only when you've tried everything else, as this may undermine your image as a leader.   

  • "Don't feel shy about asserting your authority." Don't hesitate to give directives even if it means breaking your former relationship with the group. Don't rely on past friendships with colleagues as this may make it difficult for them to recognize your authority and may be viewed by others as favoritism.

  • "Distance yourself from your team, but just enough." You must assert your authority, but this doesn't mean becoming authoritarian. Strive to find the right balance.

  • "Accept the loneliness your position implies." Get used to the idea that you can't share your complains or doubts with your former colleagues, as this would now harm your credibility. Instead, find a coach or mentor within your department.

The article contains many more good pieces of advice. If you want to read the complete version in French, here it is.

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