You’ve just been promoted to management. You are now officially in charge of a team of your prior peers, many of whom you consider friends. Supervising friends at work? This can be a tough transition, however these 6 keys can help ease the discomfort:

  1. First, make the tough call: Loyalty to work has to come before loyalty to your friend–if it can’t, you shouldn’t be leading that individual. Request to be demoted or see if that individual can be on another team–and choose now, before you’re forced to make that call. (Could you sit through Wednesday night dinner at your friend’s home knowing
    s/he is being let go on Friday?) Status inequality can be hard on friendships.
  2. Set clear boundaries and expectations
    • Do not discuss work outside of work
    • Do not discuss at length personal situations/issues at work
    • Make personal plans on personal time
    • Specify your role when offering advice – “Speaking as your supervisor,” “Speaking as your friend”
    • Neither one of you can request in a work context, “Do it for me because we’re friends.”
    • When your friend isn’t adhering to work/personal boundaries respond with, “That’s good to know, can you tell me more when we’re at work/after work?”
    • NEVER share other employees’ information with a friend
    • NEVER vent to a friend who is an employee about work
    • Remember you’re both at work to accomplish work; the friendship can’t impede the work
  3. Be rational, fair and objective. 
    • Treat your friend the same as you would anyone else on your team.
    • Favoritism, special treatment, exceptions, protection or consideration creates resentment and alienates others. You will lose credibility as a leader and cause disunity within the team.
    • Preemptively clarify how important being objective and fair is to your friend.
    • Ask yourself, would you behave the same way if you didn’t have a personal history with this individual?
  4. Remember: true friends won’t want you to compromise your work responsibilities; they’ll want you to succeed. They won’t put you in a situation where you’ll be forced to choose between friendship and work.
  5. Don’t confuse being liked with being trusted and respected.
  6. Keep in mind, especially if you’re new to supervising, that being the supervisor means you’re responsible for supporting the success of every single individual on your team and at the end of the day, you’re there to guide, support and serve your team.  This commitment should not vary based on chemistry or personality.

Now that you know how to balance supervising friends at work – enjoy both your friendships and the beautiful honor that it is to be a supervisor!


Team Building/Culture Building Activity:

Are you looking to have more effective and efficient communication in your meetings?  At your next meeting try on these basic hand gestures to create both velocity and claritynote the link to the one-minute video at the end of the tip that demonstrates key gestures you can leverage with your team.