Treat Your Friend the Same As Everyone Else
There can be a tendency to either be too hard or too lenient on your friends when you become the boss. Some new managers may give their friends more work (or projects that no one else seems to get done) with the assumption that their friend will understand and want to help.
Friends do help each other under normal circumstances, but when you're the boss you have to be extra careful not to rely on your friends as you would outside of work. This can be an especially difficult adjustment if your friends have chipped in when you were coworkers at the same level.
The same holds true for preferential treatment. As a boss, you don't have the luxury to give your friends special consideration. Before assigning your friend a project (or giving negative feedback), ask yourself these questions:
- Am I expecting my friend to understand my stress level?
- Do I want my friend to help bail me out?
- Do I expect more from my friend because I know him or her personally?
- Would I behave the same way if I didn't have a personal history with this individual?
Discuss the Situation With Your Friend
Expect your friendship to change now that your work situation has changed. However, that doesn't have to be a bad thing. Friendships change and evolve all the time. As soon as you begin your role as manager, talk with your friend about your promotion and how it may affect things. Ideally, your friendship outside of work should be almost the same as it was before, with a few exceptions:
- You can no longer engage in office gossip. As a boss you simply can't be seen talking about other employees in an unprofessional way. Avoid giving out details on employee's personal lives, salary information, or work performance.
- You friend may still want to vent about work like before. If that happens, change the subject or remind your friend you can't really talk about it.
- You can still have lunch with your pal, but make sure other employees are along. Too much one-on-one time in the office can make it look like you're favoring your friend.
- Stop going out with your coworkers after work unless others in management are going also. Too much time partying with the office staff can undermine your authority.
Don't Turn Your Back on Your Friend
In an effort to keep the relationship professional, some new managers distance themselves from their friend to the point that the friendship basically ends. You don't need to do that. You can still laugh and joke with your friend without it comprising your working relationship. Just remember to draw the line at behavior that, if done with another employee, would be considered inappropriate.
Creating a healthy boss/employee relationship takes two people. Your friend is just as important a part in maintaining your professional and personal friendship as you are. You can only control your side of things. When you're outside the office, work extra hard to nurture your friendship, especially in the beginning stages of your new promotion. It may take your friend longer to get used to the new situation, so be patient as your friend adjusts.