When your best buddy becomes your boss, there’s an inevitable shift in dynamics that can be difficult to navigate. It can seem like a lose-lose; you may experience the loss of a friend and a fellow peer.
You once had a relationship that was equal and personal. Now it seems your former BFF is on the other side of the proverbial fence: there’s now a hierarchical chasm between you.
They may be able to decide your salary, promotions and a lot more.
But don’t let the stress consume you – use this as an opportunity to develop personally by redirecting your thought processes. Here are some steps to consider if your close buddy just became in charge:
1) Have the discussion. If your colleague hasn’t asked to speak to you about the shift, realize that it may be out of fear. She may not want the conflict. Take the brave step of being the first to communicate, if necessary. This will ultimately ease the tension for both of you.
2) Stick to business facts. Although your friend’s promotion can seem like a serious blow to both your career and friendship, try to view it from a non-emotional perspective. If you can remain focused on your work and not let what you can’t control - control you – you’ll be able to move ahead more quickly. Consider the good things you gleaned from the friendship, and apply them professionally in your job.
3) Avoid becoming entitled. Don’t expect favored treatment just because you were formerly best pals. You’ll likely have to forego discussing personal matters and socializing as frequently. If you expect special treatment, you will be let down. This new development may make certain information about the company off limits to you. Try to respect the new boundaries and avoid attempting to use your friendship as leverage.
4) Spread the love. Find other colleagues in the department with whom you can socialize. It may be difficult to find a “replacement” friend for your former buddy, but if you put in the effort, you can still create supportive friendships.
5) Don’t take it personally. This shift is not your colleague’s fault…and if you’re a true friend, you’ll show some empathy to the awkwardness he or she is feeling. At times, your new boss may feel he must compensate for the former close ties by being too authoritative. Don’t take it to heart; things will likely fall into place once your colleague is more comfortable with the new dynamic.
If, however, your former buddy allows the newly-found power to consume him or her, and the behavior is suddenly reminiscent of The Devil Wears Prada (or a Terrible Office Tyrant), that's another matter. You may need to set up a heart-to-heart early on and diplomatically set boundaries.
6) A risky proposition? It’s healthy to work among a friendly, cooperative group of colleagues. But when you make a fellow employee your closest personal friend, you do assume some risk. Conflicts about business matters, perceived breaches of trust and other issues can arise that result in a more challenging work life.
7) Be professional and respectful. This is hard to believe at the moment, but just because your friend got promoted doesn’t preclude you from advancing. In fact, the more supportive and professional you are, the greater your chances of getting ahead. Steer away from tendencies to gossip or commiserate, for example, and take the high road.
8) Consider how to advance your own career. This may be a good opportunity to take stock of your own growth; albeit not in a competitive way. Consider jotting down what you can do to make your job more rewarding and impactful. Examine whether this is a catalyst for you to consider a different career path; just don't be hasty.
By refocusing and building on your own strengths, you’ll be better positioned to excel in your own right.