From BFFs to BOSS

One day you and your friends are complaining about the boss. The next, you are your friends’ boss. So how do you successfully go from being BFFs to BOSS? It’s definitely a tricky situation. Here are some thoughts:

  • Be clear.  Yes, you can still be friends. And the working relationship has changed. Set clear expectations around the work and what is expected for all of your direct reports. If there are certain boundaries that need to be set–on your part or your direct reports’– make sure to get them out in the open with the individual. And the earlier the better.
  • Be consistent.  Once you are clear around what is expected of you and your direct reports, you have to be consistent in your actions. Your friends have to know that you as a boss are not going to give them preferential treatment when it comes to bonuses, raises, promotions, support and resources. And your other direct reports have to know that as well. How will they know it? Through your actions. Be consistent in the way that you give out rewards, time and resources. If your friends deserve it, and it’s documented, great. If they don’t and they still get rewarded, that’s when gossip, perceptions of unfairness and all sorts of trouble will start.
  • Be mindful.  Always recognize that when you are the boss, people’s eyes are always on you, whether you know it or not. People are always looking at your actions–what you are doing, and what you are not doing. Because you know your friends more than others, you may be inadvertently giving them more time, more energy and more support than others. You as a boss have to attend to everyone, so be aware of how much time and energy you are giving everyone.
  • Be proactive.  Set one-to-one meetings early and often.  As soon as you are promoted, get on the calendar of each of your direct reports to have an individual meeting that is all about them (remember, it’s not me, it’s you). Find out during that meeting what motivates them, what they like about their work, how they liked to be led and what questions they have. Then talk about your vision for the group and how they can be a part of it.  Have regular check-in meetings with all of your direct reports every month or two.
  • Be aware.  A relationship between two people takes, yes, two people. You bring 50% to it, and they bring 50%, which makes 100%. But so many times a person thinks he or she is responsible for the entire 100%. You can do everything you can to be the best boss, but some people will still not be satisfied. You have no control over what they are feeling about you (their 50%).  All you really have control over are your own thoughts, ideas, behaviors and actions (your 50%). So make sure your 50% is right.

What else have your heard about going from BFFs to BOSS? If you leave a comment or piece of advice, you will be entered to win an autographed copy of my guidebook, Developing Political Savvy!

8 thoughts on “From BFFs to BOSS

  1. I wish I had this advice at the time. We weren’t bff (there was no term then), but we were close and I trusted her like a mentor. When she became the “higher up” but not the boss, it was no longer – ask the questions – learn all you can learn – but I’m the higher up and just do what I tell you to do.

    It was a shock and put a different perspective on our relationship

    1. Pat, thanks for the comment. It sounds like you expereinced it not from the leader pespective, but from the “led” perspective, or as you put it, she went from a well-valued friend and even mentor, to your higher-up. Do you (or others out there who are reading) have any advice or thoughts around when your friend is the one who gets promoted and how to handle going from BFFs to now you are reporting to the person?

    1. J.D., I am glad you think so. Being clear and consistent will also help dispel any politics (or perceptions of politics) that happen in organizations. Ever notice that when things seem unfair, it’s because there is no transparency? People are not being clear and not being consistent. You put it well, clear and consistent go a long way.

  2. Several years ago whilst I was growing in a role I was asked to lead my team of peers. I was then placed in a position where I had to performance manager people that i had been working with for years. There had been no effective formal feedback provided prior and it was a very difficult situation to manage, but it had to be done. If I did not take action morale in the team would have went down hill. I must say it was the most difficult thing to do but in the end it was the best way to lead.

    1. Andre, it sounds like you were thrown into a situation that you didn’t really have control over, AND, that you learned a lot from it. Developmental, or “stretch” assignments, particualrly ones that are difficult, are usually seen as the ones that are the most challenging, AND the most rewarding. You saw that this difficult thing had to be done to make sure morale would be high. It is a perfect example of “It’s not me, it’s you” putting the emphasis less on yourself, and more on your team. Thanks for your insight and sharing your story!

  3. Interesting, my colleague in the Coast Guard mentioned that they don’t allow this to happen–when a person is promoted, he or she is moved to another group.

    1. Cathy, thanks for the message. In some cases like you state, when they promote people, they intentionally move them so they don’t have to deal with this issue, which obviously can make this issue (or problem like many people see it) something that does not need to be examined. In the current business environment where there are companies with tight budgets and other constraints, they can’t afford (money, time, and human resources) to move someone to another group, they just don’t have the resources, and it becomes an all-too-familiar issue with many out there. Thanks for your time in reading and responding!

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