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How to Manage Friends

Try these tips to successfully navigate the often-rocky transition from co-worker to manager.

Things have changed. If you've been promoted to a management position, that's the first truth you'll learn. You'll have different responsibilities and, as a result, your relationships with your former peers will be different. You're no longer "one of the gang." Your opinion can impact your friends' salary, how they do their jobs and even whether or not they continue with the company.

It can be an awkward situation for everyone. With your co-workers, discuss what your new role entails, your expectations of the team and your goals. Avoid the pitfall of micromanaging, but take charge. Although you may worry that you appear "bossy," remember that your job is to ensure that employees get the work completed.

If you were promoted into management over a co-worker who was being considered for the same position, he or she may harbor hard feelings. Address any disappointment or anger directly and reiterate your hope that you will be able to work together as part of the team.

Friend or Friendly?

There's a difference between being a friend and being friendly. Ideally, you want to achieve the latter. Linda Hill, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, calls the boss-employee relationship a paradox in that while you should be caring and genuinely human, you must never forget that the relationship is unequal--and it exists to accomplish work. You want employees to feel comfortable discussing problems and issues with you, but becoming overly friendly with your staff can create problems, especially if you have to give a friend a not-so-glowing performance review or terminate their employment.

As friends and peers, you may have shared office gossip, a drink after work, complaints about office politics or details of your home or family life. It's difficult to distance yourself after so much camaraderie and closeness, but not impossible. If you previously shared break time or ate lunch together, you can still do so occasionally, as long as you make sure to spend time with others you manage, too.

Give yourself--and your co-workers--time to adjust to you new role. At the same time, be honest about how your relationship with your co-workers has changed.


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