How to manage a friend

Promotion can create as many problems as it solves unless you are careful about how you supervise your office mates, says Calum Robson

Being promoted is fantastic – but for those at the early stages of a professional career, promotion can place them in the tricky situation of having responsibility for the work (and discipline) of those they regard as friends.

Equal treatment

Especially when others in the office know of a close friendship, it’s vital to ensure you don’t give your friend preferential treatment – either through favouritism or excess leniency – compared to other workers. Keep an eye out for signals you may unwittingly send out to fellow workers that this isn’t the case – they may pick up on certain things you say or do that could be misconstrued.

Discussions about what the two of you did at the weekend or regular lunching together – however harmless – may underline the personal aspect of your relationship in a manner that could give others cause for resentment. Ask yourself how you would feel if you were in your colleagues’ position and witnessing your behaviour. If you suspect it might make you uneasy, you can guarantee that’s exactly how it’s affecting other team members.

Break with the past

Consider telling your friend that it’s important that when you are at work, that work comes first and your friendship stays out of work hours. This will require a certain delicacy while, of course, stressing that your personal friendship is as meaningful and valued as ever, and ensuring they are OK about it all. Few real friends will take offence at a carefully worded explanation – after all, they should appreciate that your new role requires an absence of double standards.

Good intentions can unravel. Even if there isn’t a formal 360-degree review system in place, part of being a good manager is making sure that your team members feel they can approach you with issues, however sensitive. If you have reason to believe you may have been getting a little slack in keeping your friend at an appropriate distance in the office, ask certain team members for casual feedback.

Be decisive

If your friend creates a problem – perhaps performance deteriorates or attendance falls – it may seem easy to pretend not to notice. But that’s not a winning long-term strategy.

Face the issue head on, as early as possible. Don’t allow fears about the effect on your friendship to dictate how you respond – after all, you wouldn’t permit such considerations with other team members. Any defensiveness or hostility on the part of your friend will be their creation, not yours. By talking objectively and directly, without generalising or wrapping things up in cotton wool, you are more likely to salvage the relationship on both fronts.


"Consider telling your friend that it’s important that when you are at work, that work comes first and your friendship stays out of work hours"