The Line Between Boss and Friend

By Dayton Uttinger

Updated Over a Week Ago

Minute Read

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Being promoted can give you a sense of validation and pride, but it also spurs a new set of problems.  While maintaining good relationships with coworkers is the most important factor in low turnover, this is threatened by a change in the hierarchy.

When your friends are suddenly your employees, it can drastically change your relationship. This can affect your career as well. It’s important that you handle your promotion carefully. Otherwise, you might be left with no friends and no job. 60% of managers fail within the first two years.

To avoid joining the throng, make sure that you do the following:

Draw the Line

This is probably the most important step if you want to maintain your friendship with coworkers. Sit down in a neutral setting (i.e., not your new office) and discuss what is likely to change. Your schedules probably don’t match up anymore. You will have additional responsibilities, and you will no longer be privy to everything that happens “on the ground.”

While previously you could bond with your coworkers over the daily events, you’ll now be too busy examining the bigger picture to know all the details about low-level interactions.

This presents a challenge for your friendship but also for your professional life. You might want to know every struggle that your friends have with customers or with different departments, but it is not always a good idea for you to know. Remember how you hesitated in bringing certain issues to the supervisor’s attention previously. You didn’t want to move something up the chain unless it was thoroughly warranted.

That same philosophy should stay in place between you and your friends. Although it might be tempting to try to connect over work problems, you don’t want to encourage the view that your friends get special privileges. As a manager, you need to see both sides of a story. And you don’t want your perception colored by your friends’ views.

Keep Your Behavior in Check

You might think that now that you’re scrutinizing others’ performance, your own behavior is out of the spotlight. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, before, you only had to worry about if your supervisor and maybe one nosy employee saw your misdeeds. Now, all eyes are on you. No more getting overly toasty at happy hour, no more jokes that flirt with the line, and no more showing up 15 minutes late.

Give Them Credit, Take the Blame

Inevitably, recognition for your team’s success will flow to you first, and it’ll stop there if you let it. This will cause resentment both on a professional and personal level.  You should take some credit as a new manager to show your worth. But moving some of it down the line. Your friends and colleagues will appreciate this move, as it gives them a chance to revel in their accomplishments too.

However, you should try and shoulder the blame if you can. This is a delicate game to play. You don’t want to take too much because you want to give your bosses a good impression as well.

At the same time, realize that because of your position, you might feel very little ramifications over a mistake that could ruin a team member’s week. Achieving this balance is difficult. But if you do, you will be well-liked and well-respected among your employees.

It’s inevitable that you will form bonds with coworkers. Some of these will evolve into friendships. Logically, not all of you can be promoted.

If you happen to be the one chosen, then this is a tricky trail to walk along. But it is not the undiscovered territory. Understand that you can have the best of both worlds but that you’ll have to sacrifice in order to achieve it.

How Do You Draw the Line Between Boss and Friend?

If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Dayton Uttinger
Dayton Uttinger
Dayton socializes for a living and writes for fun. Her rarely relevant degree gives her experience in political science, writing, Spanish, rugby, theater, coding, and spreading herself too thin. She will forever be a prisoner of her family’s business, doomed to inherit responsibility despite frequent existential protests.
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