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Dear Coach,

After months of hard work and dedication, I recently received a well-deserved promotion to be the senior manager in my department. It’s a great step for me, and I’m very excited about the additional scope and responsibility. The position has been open for many months, which has been very difficult for our team. Now that it’s been filled, it’ll make all of our work much easier.

However, to my surprise, not everyone is as happy as I am that I got the job. While I understand that others who wanted the position feel disappointed, I think it was clear that I was the best fit for the role based on my experience and skills. Many of these people were friends, or so I thought—now I’m not so sure. Now that I’m “the boss” I feel like they’re giving me the cold shoulder, not to mention a hard time when I assign them work or follow up on projects.

How do I maintain my friendships and also make sure that everyone’s getting their job done?

Recently Promoted

Dear Recently Promoted,

First, congratulations on the promotion! It sounds like you worked hard and earned it. And trust me, what you’re going through is exactly what happens when you become the boss of your work friends. It’s happened to every professional in this situation.

Here’s the thing, the types of relationships you have at work change when you become the person in charge. It’s a fact of the business world. While I’m not suggesting you can’t be friends or friendly with people who report into you, your role as their boss takes precedence. As a manager, you have a responsibility to the company to lead in this role, first and foremost. And as such, you need to set clear performance expectations and give performance feedback. You shouldn’t let your friendship get in the way of that.

While you should expect that your relationship with people will change, it’s not professional for your direct reports to box you out because of your promotion. They should be adult enough to understand your new role and responsibility. It’s not fair for them to expect that you shouldn’t do your duties as a supervisor just because you’ve been friendly previously. If you’re getting blowback from folks, I would first ignore it and see if it fades. Then, if it doesn’t, have a honest conversation about your new responsibilities and the expectations you have of the team.

It might sound like this: “Hey Lisa, it’s really important to me that we have a good working relationship and that the team is successful. My job is to make sure that all of the work is assigned to the right team members, and I need to know that you’re supporting me in that role. When you show up late to the weekly meetings and disregard my assignments, it means that you miss important information and things fall through the cracks. I consider you a friend and I’d like to know how I can get more support from you. What are your thoughts?”

If they don’t adjust their behavior, then I’d be questioning their professionalism and commitment to the company and trying not to take it personally. Regardless, you want to take the high road here.

Of course, all of that’s easier said than done. Confronting relationship issues at work is never easy and runs the risk of conflict and bad feelings. Get clear on your priorities, your commitment to the success of the company, and your dedication to developing a professional environment. Then, do the best you can.

Coach Bruce

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