Managing Your Friends
You’re smart and have worked hard. So, it’s no surprise you’ve been tapped on the shoulder to manage your own team. Even better, you already know most of the team. In fact, just take a look at your Instagram page. There’s a ton of margarita soaked happy hour pics to prove it! Wait a minute – these are the same people who you’ve complained to about awkward performance reviews, things that annoy you about your boss and even that “food poisoning” excuse you concocted to get out of a meeting last week. You may be thinking, “How is this ever going to work?”
Before you panic, many have been in your shoes and the good news is that many have successfully navigated these muddy waters. The biggest shift you will need to make is acknowledging that some things will change. It’s inevitable. You simply can’t be effective in the manager role and have things operate like they have in the past. Does this mean you will lose all of your friends? Although you will quickly learn who your real friends are, if you can avoid the pitfalls below you will increase your chances of shining as a manager while at the same time maintaining solid relationships.
#1 - The “Like me” Landmine – It’s a natural tendency for manager’s to want their team members to like them. This is especially true when you’re already friends with them. But, what happens when you have to give feedback for improvement or a performance review to one of them? If you’re focused on being liked, it will be challenging for you to lead. This is a very hard lesson to learn for most new managers. Instead of focusing on who likes you, focus on being fair. Even though you may ruffle a few feathers along the way, if people know you care about the performance of the team and are consistent in your expectations, the naysayers will usually come around.
#2 - The “Look the other way” Landmine – How will you handle a friend you’re managing who’s taking advantage? Maybe asking for extra time off or special favors? As a friend your instinct may be to let it slide. Especially if this is friend knows some of your shenanigans before you were manager. This is a tough situation to be in and one almost everyone in your position encounters at least once. Even if you let it go once or twice where do you draw the line? As you already know, team members talk. Word will get out that you have favorites and you can quickly lose credibility with the team and higher ups. Address these awkward situations head on and the first time. If they’re a friend worth keeping, they’ll respect your position.
#3 - The “Why didn’t they invite” Landmine – Remember all of those happy hours and lunch time venting sessions? After all, those are what may have led you to bond with these friends anyways. Co-workers often build relationships over what and who they like or don’t like at work. So, what happens if all of a sudden you hear the team went out and didn’t invite you like they used to? Ouch! That hurts. You will have to learn not to take this personally. You are the boss and sometimes not getting invited has nothing to do with you as a person. Sometime it’s just weird to have your boss around, regardless of whether you like them or not.
It’s difficult to realize your friendships may change once you become the boss. But remember, if you don’t fully commit to your new role and try and be more friend than boss, it could jeopardize your ability to gain respect as a new manager and be considered for greater promotion into the future.
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