A year and a half ago when I started with my current company, I met and immediately bonded with a coworker. We’d been hired at the same time and shared similar interests. We ate lunch together two to three times a week and went camping together.
Three months ago, I got promoted and I now supervise her and my other former coworkers. She and I went out for a celebratory lunch, but it wasn’t fun, and since then things have become awkward between us. Despite my issuing regular invitations, we’ve only had one lunch together.
Yesterday I asked her if something was wrong and she told me I act differently now that I have “power.” I asked her how, but she didn’t want to talk about it. I don’t know what to do but I really miss my friend.
When you get promoted over a former friend, you risk losing her. Not everyone can handle the feelings that surface when a former peer moves past her.
If you want to turn this around, examine your own behavior. Although you say you haven’t acted differently, you may have in ways you don’t recognize. New supervisors can take themselves too seriously and throw their status around in ways that offend. For example, have you appeared to gloat about a management meeting to which you were invited?
Next, even if you haven’t changed as a person, you’ve changed in your role. Your former coworkers may treat you differently because they see you as having authority over them. Ultimately, you may have to appraise your former friend’s performance. Supervisors who try to pretend they’re still “one of the gang” delude themselves.
You can handle this reality more effectively if you and your former co-worker set boundaries that fit your changed relationship. For example, if you have lunch together, you need to avoid work topics. If you don’t, you might hear information that your supervisory status requires you to act on but that your friend expects you to keep confidential.
Finally, no one individual can keep a friendship alive without the other’s permission. Work friendships, fueled by common daily experiences and similar viewpoints, have a short life span that frequently ends when one friend changes jobs – as you have.
© 2017, Lynne Curry. If you have a career questions you’d like Lynne to answer, write her @ email@example.com. Lynne is an executive coach and author of Solutions and Beating the Workplace Bully, AMACOM. You can follow Lynne through her other posts on sheknows.com, via www.workplacecoachblog.com, www.bullywhisperer.com™ or @lynnecurry10 on twitter.
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