Last Updated on July 14, 2023 by Lorna Barrow


cover image for new supervisor? how to master the backlash that awaits you


Three months ago, you were promoted…you’re the new supervisor. And you’re proud of yourself because you worked long and hard for it and your colleagues know this.


In reality as the new supervisor, you’re “an insider job” – you’ve been promoted from within and everybody knows you.  


So what’s the problem?


Well, you really thought you would have the trust, respect and support of the team. After all, you’ve worked with them for more than five years and they had equal opportunity to apply for the job.


But now, your once happy department has become a combative war zone. Your team shows little to no respect for your authority. Even your boss is now questioning if you are the right person for the job in her small business after all…


But you’re not the problem.


You see, when you were promoted and required to supervise former colleagues, as a new supervisor, you were presented with one of the most difficult workplace transition issues there is.


All at once, your role changed.  You are now supervising people whom you drank with after work, who asked you to cover for them when they were late and who cut your hair for free on weekends.


Your support system also changed at the same time. Some of your colleagues who were an integral part of that system can no longer perform their roles like they did before. That’s because they now regard you, “the new supervisor” with the suspicion previously reserved only for management.


This is something  you will find in many small businesses and it happens mostly because of the size and the closeness of the working relationships. 


Added to this, many small business owners believe that by promoting someone from within, there is little need for supervisory or management training. 


And even when such training is provided, it is very general and not at all targeted for “in-house” supervisors who have been promoted from inside the business.


Organisational or business change can be hard generally, but promotions in small businesses take on a life of their own. They give rise to a myriad of issues, but undoubtedly, lack of respect is the biggest one of all. 

So what’s the solution to the ‘new supervisor’ dilemma?


The good news is, that as a new “insider job”, there are a number of things which you can do, assisted by your own boss, to earn the respect of your former colleagues and in some cases, friends.




Here are 10 strategies to help you master the backlash from being a new supervisor…


1.  Remember your team members are human too

Just because you’re the one who’s been promoted does not mean that you’re the only one who’s going through change.


Your team members are going through a range of emotions:

  • pride at your success
  • resentment that it was not them
  • confusion as to how to treat you
  • anxiety as to how you will treat them
  • loss that people experience with change
  • the list is endless…


If you start with this in mind, with empathy for your co-workers, you will help yourself quickly along the path towards building the trust and respect you need to carryout your supervisor responsibilities.


2.  Work with your boss to manage your team’s expectation of your role 

Let’s take this step by step.


Remember I told you that since you were promoted from within, you were in a unique position.


You have been promoted from among a group of fellow (and gal) workers. They will each have expectations of you, which they believe you can fulfil. After all, they know you personally.


However, your new role has forced you to change how you interact with your former colleagues, who now report to you.


Your responsibility is now to manage what your team can and should expect from you in your new supervisor role.


You and your need to do this as early in the process as possible, so that you ensure that you earn their respect quickly and get on with building that team you had in mind. 


So, have your Boss call a meeting, which you both should attend, and make your expectations clear. Allow people to ask questions and you both should give them open and honest answers. 


Do not play “good cop , bad cop” with them or display any other type of tag team behaviour.


 3.  Communicate effectively

As far as building a high performing team goes, communicating effectively is one of the surest ways to help you achieve your supervisory goals and earn the respect of your team members as well.


But I must admit that sometimes, this can seem like a tall order and may even require you to learn how to “step between the raindrops and not get wet”.


However, here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Listen more than you talk and do so without passing judgement.

 2.  Be direct and sincere as your default position and focus on issues, not personalities, when you discuss work matters and problems.

3.  Learn how to give feedback that’s focused on performance instead of just opinionated criticism, when performance needs to be improved.

 4.  Be firm and forthright when addressing tough or sensitive issues. 

4.  Set clear and realistic expectations/goals for your team

This is very important.


You are the new supervisor. And depending on how much you were prepared for your role, you may lack the required supervisory management skills. As you can well imagine, this will place you under deep suspicion.


If you can trust me, now is NOT the time for you to concentrate too heavily on setting any smart goals. 


Here’s what works better in small businesses.


First of all, focus more on balancing the goals and expectations of the job and business with the capacity of the team and its individual members. You will need strong interpersonal skills for this.


Then you need to select relevant training, mentoring and coaching for yourself, approved by your boss. 


This combination of strategies is one that I use for my clients and it has proved very successful in getting new supervisors performing as required in the shortest possible time. 


5.  Base decisions on sound reasoning and logic…

And not on ego and emotion.


I know, I know… After all you were the one promoted to supervisor, so certainly you know this.


But I also know you are only human and sometimes it takes a super-human effort not to retaliate against people who disrespect your authority and seem to have it in for you. Especially when you have “done so much” for that person in the past.


So keep a level head and know that once you do, you will achieve your supervisory goals.


6.  Don’t have a know-it-all attitude 

This is a close cousin of #5 above.


Some newly promoted supervisors appear to have been anointed at the font of “know it all”.


You know what I mean. Before they were promoted, they listened, they were reasonable and even asked for your opinion on certain things.


But everything changes with their new job title and expanded duties. They issue instructions which you are expected to follow blindly. Even a raised eyebrow might get you cited for for being rude. 


Don’t you ever display this attitude, unless disrespect is your intended goal.


And while you’re at it, control your ego as well. Admit when you make a mistake, share how you’re going to fix it and don’t transfer blame.


7.  Provide reasonable opportunities for team members to advance

Some new supervisors, usually those with strong feelings of insecurity, are inclined to kick down the ladder that took them to the top.


I guess this is one way to maintain the “lonely at the top” status quo if that’s important to you.


But consider the alternative.


When your team realizes that you are willing to provide them with real opportunities to advance, their respect for you goes off the scale. Oh! And their productivity increases as well.


Another great benefit in providing your team with opportunities to advance is that you also help the overall business with one of the key business solutions. 


Now which do you prefer?


8.  Deal with problem people and situations quickly and fairly

You will meet this situation sooner…not later.


Your family friend –  you know the one, the one who works with you, the one who picks up your children from school and the one who takes turns at cutting your grass – is giving you the most problems in your role as new supervisor.


You are reluctant to deal with him for all the above reasons, but all the others are watching the situation play out with baited breaths, and flared nostrils.


Deal with these situations quickly and fairly because this lack of respect coming from such a source has great potential to derail the team and undermine your role.


When you do, keep the conversation focused on the issue to be corrected and do not allow the culprit to reduce it to an “I thought we were friends” affair.


 9.  Understand where the business is going and share this with the team

This is the most strategic thing that a small business can do to build loyalty and commitment from the team.


When employees know where the business is going and their role in helping it to get there, they want to stick around to see the results of their efforts.


When you are the supervisor or team leader who helps to create this experience for them, they reward you with their respect and loyalty.


So how do you do this?


Sit down with your boss, the owner of the business and have them share this information with you, if they have not done so before. Agree that you will organise a meeting and together you will share this information with the other employees.


You don’t have to share confidential or sensitive information but a general indication of where the business is going will work wonders for both of you in building commitment and loyalty.


10.   Have fun…a new supervisor can’t be all business



Yes…circumstances at work have changed but that does not mean that you should cut off all social activities with your former colleagues.


If you do, you will alienate existing friendships. This in turn may disrupt things at work and lead to tension in relationships generally.


So, have fun.


You can still go out with your former colleagues as long as you keep business things for business hours and personal and fun things for after work hours.


For example, talking about a performance review after a couple of beers might lead to an honesty which you may regret during working hours.


Your next move as a new supervisor…

Relax…breathe out.


Yes, you may be an insider job but I just helped you out with your big issue…lack of respect.


I gave you 10 strategies to help you master the backlash of your new position. You can apply them one-by-one or all at once.


Let me remind you of them right here:

  1. Remember your team members are human too
  2. Work with your boss to manage your team’s expectation of your role
  3. Communicate effectively
  4. Set clear and realistic expectations/goals for your team
  5. Base decisions on sound reasoning and logic 
  6. Don’t have a know-it-all attitude 
  7. Provide reasonable opportunities for team members to advance
  8. Deal with problem people and situations quickly and fairly
  9. Understand where the business is going and share this information with the team
  10. Have fun…new supervisors can’t be all business


Are you going to go back to sleep and pretend that this post did not happen? 


Can you continue dreading the very though of going to work and then coming to work all tensed up?


I say “NO!” You’re smarter that that. Your boss was right when she promoted you. 


I’ve given you the information. And I have no doubt that you will act on it.


To your success as a new supervisor…



New Supervisor? How to Master The Backlash That Awaits You

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Lorna Barrow

Lorna Barrow is a Business Breakthrough Specialist, an unfiltered Transformational Speaker, a Writer, a Coach and a self-confessed Small Business Junkie. She recognises that small businesses are unique and when it comes to helping you and your business make that BIG breakthrough, she's all in for you!