Friends & Work

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Best friend is now my boss

Sept 2004

My best friend just got promoted to be my boss. Today was the first day I was at work with her, and it was completely strange and uncomfortable. We had a meeting where she talked about all ''boss'' things, then wanted to chat about personal things. I think we both felt awkward. What if I screw something up? What about all the things I know about how she really feels about some of the other people that she now is supervising? I really value her as a friend and don't want to jeapordize our friendship. Has anyone been through this? Do you have any suggestions? anonymous

I too worked with my best friend. I was her boss first and it could be uncomfortable. We made a pact that anything that happened at work was not personal and we could not take anything personally. For the most part it worked. When she decided to quit I had to be understanding even though it meant more work for me. Later in our careers the tables were reversed and we made the same pact. It is also important that your co-workers understand that though you are best friends you are also independant of each other- that is what decisions she makes reflect only her and vice versa. Sometimes people would attempt to use our friendship to get what they wanted fortunately we had our agreement and I was confident that whatever work decisions I made would not affect that friendship. Express your concerns to your friend and have faith that everything will work out. Tammy
I feel for you--in my last job, one of my best friends was on equal standing with me and there was always the chance that one of us could get promoted and would then be a boss to the other. So I have spent time thinking about this situation, and hoping that it never happened. Having been away from that job for more than a year now, I do have a clearer perspective on how it should be handled, well, at least how I would choose to view it. The bottom line is that the superior/subordinate relationship must be respected, and come first in the workplace. I think whether you can do this as friends depends on the type of people you both are. Can you separate work issues from non-work issues? Some people can, others can't. I heard a statistic once that the number one reason that people leave their job is because of their boss--so your relationship with your friend has taken on a whole new meaning. As for practical advice, I would suggest leaving the personal chit chat to outside of work. It's too easy to regress into office gossip, and that is NOT what you want to do with your boss. Don't burden her with personal information or feelings about co- workers that are not appropriate in a superior/subordinate situation, at least not until you give this some time to see how the new relationship evolves. Let her take the lead while you hold back personal comments. As for her past comments about co-workers who now report to her, you'll have to leave those comments in the past and give her the benefit of the doubt that she will treat these colleagues with respect. And if you screw up, you need to trust that she is professional enough to evaluate your performance in a work setting while keeping your friendship separate. But that can be a tall order. You need to face the fact that your friendship could change, as sad as that can be. On the other hand, she may be turn out to be the best boss you ever had, because you two have enough in common to be such good friends, and therefore, may think alike and find a good working groove together. Best wishes. anon