When a Friend Becomes the Boss

I have two close women friends at work, and one of them—it was announced last week—now reports to me. I feel somewhat upset because I think she’s upset. I feel she used to look to me as a friend, and now it’s like, “Oh, gosh. You’re my boss!” She was instant-messaging me the day we found out. She was asking, “Did you know about this?” She came to my house Saturday. I mean, we’re friends! I would never, ever want to upset her by any means. And I was a little bit upset that she thought I would know about something like that and not tell her. There is trouble ahead for these two friends if they do not talk about how this change in their roles at work means their friendship expectations need to change. Kate will not be able to tell her friend everything about confidential information she will have as the boss. If the two women can name and negotiate their expectations for how they will deal with professional topics that come up versus when they are just being friends, they will be able to continue being close friends. If not, the consequences could be disastrous for them professionally or personally or both. A recent example of the kind of trouble Kate may be facing with her friend if they don’t learn to manage the changes in their roles comes from a new coaching client in my practice. This client, Stephanie, a white woman in her twenties who is a union executive, hired me as her coach because she was recently promoted and her good friend, a man, now reports to her. He is upset because he was not promoted, and she feels guilty and thinks she must prove her loyalty to him and their friendship. She has shown her loyalty by telling him information she now hears in her new position, and she has also pushed him into the limelight in some situations where she was supposed to be the one there. Her boss is disappointed in her and is now questioning whether she is willing, or able, to step into her new leadership role. He wants her to cut off the friendship with her colleague and distance herself from him. Stephanie feels stuck. Without the intervention of her coach, she might lose her promotion or damage the friendship or both—but neither needs to happen. Later in this chapter, we will take a look at the tool, role hats, that Stephanie is learning to use. But first, let’s consider some other ways that problems can develop when a friend becomes the boss.   An excerpt from my book, New Rules for Women, available at Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0982056982/).]]>

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