I started at my company about a year ago, and quickly became part of the work family. We bonded through laughter, whining, and the post-work martini. But about a week ago one of my best friends was promoted to the next level. We all did the obligatory champagne toast to our friend, but I don't know how to think of her now as my boss instead of the girl I chatted with across the cubicle and went out with on Saturday night. Now that 'one of our own' is my boss, the atmosphere feels tense. It's not like she's the head of the company now, but she gets paid more, has a new title, and I don't know what to make of our work relationship and personal friendship. Any thoughts?
- Feeling Friendless, 25, Chicago
Dear Feeling Friendless,
First of all, it is normal to feel out of sorts when your work family dynamic changes for the first time. But I assure you it won't be the last change, so this is a great learning experience for you. Since many of us spend more time with our co-workers than with our significant others or families, we come to depend on the people we work with as a social connection as much as a business one. If you are going to mix friends with work, you best nip any feelings of awkwardness in the bud.
I'm guessing a small part of you is upset about her promotion. You were hired at the same time, so why wasn't it you? The labyrinth of office politics is often frustrating to navigate. Before delving into any jealousy, think about what your friend did to gain the promotion. Did she work overtime to finish a special project? Or maybe she asserted her own ideas to make the workplace more efficient or profitable? If you look to her as a positive example and implement those observations into your day-to-day work life, you too could soon be getting a new title. And, hey, you are lucky to have someone you like as your higher up - you could be stuck with a boss you can't stand.
Heed the advice of Eve Tahmincioglu, workplace expert and columnist, CareerDiva.net blogger, and author of From the Sandbox to the Corner Office: "A reality check is in order here. If this friend, who just got promoted, is really a great friend, then you should be happy as hell for her and get over your own insecurities. Expect that your friend will do a good job and be fair to you and all of her subordinates. Don't expect the worst. You like her. Obviously the higher ups like her. That's why she got this promotion, right? So, let's expect that she's going to kick butt and do a great job. But remember, doing a great job means treating everyone fairly. Give her the benefit of the doubt. If she ends up being the boss from hell, then you probably were wrong about this being your great friend after all. But for now, expect her to be great. We should be supporting each other. By "we" I mean women. Sometimes we spend too much time tearing each other down instead of trying to lift each other up."
I'm sure a part of you is also happy for your friend, but concerned about how to approach your new working relationship. It's been said that you should start as you intend to go on. Communicate with your promoted friend sooner rather than later to establish expectations and boundaries. Maybe make a rule that after you leave the office, no work talk is allowed. It's important that you keep in mind she is now your direct superior as well as your friend. Don't begrudge her the respect of her new position. If you do, you will weaken your friendship and possibly make it more difficult for yourself to get promoted in the long run. That said, it takes two to tango in a friendship, so don't put all the responsibility on yourself to make both the personal and professional relationship work. If your friend's promotion goes to her head and she can't be as good of a friend inside or outside the office, then you deserve a better friend and possibly a different place of employment.
Also, if there is water cooler talk among your fellow co-workers about your friend's promotion, don't jump on the bandwagon of mob emotion. You don't want to get lumped into a dissatisfied, grumbling group of employees that gets noticed by the head honchos. You might even consider encouraging your colleagues to support your friend's upward movement. That will help keep your friendship with them, as well as with your promoted friend, more open and solid. Be professional and positive. If you want to be successful in business, you must practice juggling interpersonal dynamics by leaving your emotions out of the game.
I encourage you to approach this situation as a blessing. See it as an opportunity to learn from someone you respect. Keep communicating, have an open mind, and while the faces of your work family will change, know that the camaraderie you feel is an important component of job satisfaction. Focus on your own professional development, and learn from those at all the levels around you, so that someday you can be the type of boss someone would also be proud to call a friend.
Please send me your questions by posting them in the comments section below. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org