What to do When your Best Friend Becomes your Boss
When you are in the workplace long enough, you accumulate work friends as meaningful to you as non-work friends. One thing about work friends is that you sometimes have situations arise that are difficult to effectively manage. One of those is when your best work friend becomes your boss. It’s apt to happen to you sooner or later. I know some people make jokes that you’ve got it made, but you don’t really have anything made. In fact, without some mature thought, you could lose a friend permanently or even put your job at risk.
- Your relationship will change. Your friend can’t be seen as playing favorites with you. Everyone has to feel like they all get an equal chance at assignments and opportunities. If your friend is at all mature, they will probably distance themselves; and you need to support that shift. You want to stay friendly, but a certain level of professional detachment is in order for you both.
- Don’t ask them for favors. Go out of your way to not compromise your friend’s position. Granted, all people ask favors of the boss at some point, but make sure you wait a long time before making your requests.
- Just because you are friends, doesn’t mean they think you do a great job. Understand one role that your friend, now manager, plays is to assess your performance. I’ve worked with a number of work friends over the years whose performance I thought was marginal. I would have hated to have those people work for me, because I would have had to take action to spiff them up…and that isn’t a fun process. It can damage a friendship.
- Sit down and talk about this change. Rather than just make assumptions about each other, do both of you a favor and have a chat. It would be great for you to acknowledge that they are the boss and you can separate a personal and a professional relationship. Open the door to have future conversations so you can both check in to see if you have each adjusted to your new roles and tweak anything that might not be working well.
- Don’t share details with the group. You might have personal and private knowledge of your friend that should never be shared. Sharing their information might make you feel momentarily like you have an inside track, but it won’t be worth it in the long run. The deal is almost everything gets back to the boss and this isn’t something you want to be tagged with. You will do irreparable damage to the entire relationship if you have loose lips. Trust is an important value to both friendship and work relationships. It only takes one stupid act to blow it.
- Don’t take things personally. The boss (your friend) has new responsibilities and that will mean that there could be decisions they have to make that you might not like. More than likely, the decision is driven by a business reason, so don’t make your first assumption that it’s about you. If you have an issue, take it up with them privately so you can problem solve just like you would with your previous boss.
- It’s ok to act as counsel. Because of your trusted relationship, your friend may seek you out for insight or to bounce ideas. As mentioned previously, don’t share these conversations with others. You may need to also ensure that you don’t share too much information about your peers to your boss/friend, unless you know that they can handle the information appropriately.
- Act professionally. The best advice for how you want to proceed is to act professionally. Keep business just that way and make sure you can keep business and personal separate.
Who knows – It could be you who becomes the boss of your best friend. You never know how things will work out, but the main thing you want to accomplish is that you continue working effectively and maintaining a good working relationship.
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