You have been promoted from the ranks into a supervisory position. Your knowledge,skills, abilities and attitude have been recognized and now you find yourself supervising your peers, some of whom have become close friends. What to do? How do you maintain the delicate balance between friend and supervisor without compromising either?

It is not uncommon for newly promoted managers to find themselves in the uncomfortable position of supervising friends.  As a colleague, friend, and peer, you might have grumbled about leadership and the decisions your old manager was making. You may have gone out for drinks with coworkers after work and told them about your difficult spouse or underperforming child.  You may have revealed personal information that made you closer as friends.

Now that you are supervising them the following questions should be top of mind:

  • How am I going make the transition and relate to my co-workers?
  • What do they expect from me as their new manager?
  • What challenges do I see ahead?

Here are some tips to help you succeed:

  •  Acknowledge that things are different (to yourself and your staff).  It is a slippery slope to be both friend and boss. Your direct reports would rather relate to you as friend, a safer and more comfortable role for them.  You may be thinking, and some of them may as well, “why him or her and not me?”  Some of your new direct reports may have also vied for the promotion and didn’t make it. Is there resentment towards you, towards management, or both?
  • Be clear about which hat you are wearing when you are with your friends.  Start off with statements like: “as your manager….” or “let’s set aside the friendship for a minute and….”
  • Read The First 90 Days.  Michael Watkin’s book is a great resource to use to help you get started on the right foot. It is also a reminder to create a conscious game plan for how you are going to launch your new leadership position.
  • Follow these helpful tips from Watkin’s book:
  1. Be clear about expectations.
    What does your boss expect from you? What do you expect from your direct reports?
  2. Don’t show favoritism.
    When a manager shows special treatment to friends it is a lightning rod.  Be extra careful about protecting those you chum around with.  If you aren’t, it will come back to haunt you.
  3. Be firm, but not harsh.
    Avoid overkill and under-accountability. Find a comfortable balance.
  4. Don’t rush into cleaning house or making big changes.  New managers, in general, feel they need to prove they can make a difference. They often try to initiate change before establishing the relationships they need with other managers, their boss and especially
    their own direct reports.  This is also true even if you know the players from your previous role.  Take your time.

Promotion from the rank and file is great for morale and makes good business sense, but it requires skill, will and thoughtful leadership.  Create your own game plan; it will position you for success. Good luck!