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I was hired at a company and my co-worker had been hired one year previously; she trained me when I first joined the company. We've both been working in the same group, doing the same job for the past three years and we've made it clear to Management that we're interested in advancement and other opportunities in the company. We became friends during these three years, often getting together outside of work. I was recently offered the job as manager of our group, meaning that I would now be my friend's boss. I know she's going to be disappointed because I know she'll think that she should have been offered the position since she has more seniority. How do I maintain our friendship but also a good working relationship?

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Do not assume automatically that she'd hate you because you got the promotion. She may be happy for you. Maintain friendly disposition and don't act superior to her. Find a way to mention how much you appreciate her help when she trained you. In a small way she helped you get where you are today.

Do something nice for her, invite her to lunch, give her credit for work she did well, etc. If you believe she deserve a promotion, with your new position you could be instrumental in helping her get ahead.

  • I know she'll be happy for me but also disappointed for herself because she has been in the group longer and has more experience than I do. I like your idea of taking her to lunch. I don't know how much control I would have over promotions but I would be willing to submit her for one because she really deserves it. She has been passed over several times for promotions and just for lateral moves she had requested. She is discouraged and depressed. – user43254 Oct 25 '15 at 22:55
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Be transparent, professional, and sympathetic. Have an honest conversation where you share your concerns (that she will be disappointed, that it will affect your relationship), and leave it at that for now.

It will take time to see exactly how this affects your relationship -- really depends on what your role is. Will you simply guide/monitor her tasks, or will you be responsible for performance reviews and raises?

Friendships can exist between a boss and a report, but they are more complex and take more communication and work. You must also work to avoid the perception that you are treating members of the group differently because some are "friends." Communication with all of your group again is key.

Know that the title of "boss" doesn't confer any magic powers. To be an effective boss you must have the ability to maintain those good relationships, to listen to what members of your group are telling you, and to communicate clearly (when appropriate) the reasons you make the choices you do.

  • I will be responsible or guiding/monitoring her tasks and or performance reviews and raises. – user43254 Oct 24 '15 at 18:38
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    @user43254 yeah that's tough -- it may ultimately be your friend who decides how the relationship goes, but again I think your best bet is to be up front and honest as much as you can be. Part of being the boss is knowing things that you can't share with your group. – mcknz Oct 24 '15 at 18:46

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