I recently got a promotion to a position I’ve been coveting for a long time. But, my friend at work was also gunning for same position. This has really strained the relationship between us and we aren’t speaking except in meetings.
Now that she is my subordinate, how do I handle this conflict as I do t want to lose our friendship at the same time I have a lot of tasks I need her to complete on the project.
How do I manage this situation?
Let me start by saying congratulations on your promotion. I want to believe you worked hard for this and your organization knows you are competent and able to deliver hence the promotion. Let us not forget, they must be confident in your leadership skills and you must not do anything to jeopardize this and dwindle the trust they have in you.
Considering the number of hours spent at work, it is not beyond the norm that people form bonds with colleagues that transcend work relationship into deeper friendships. While friendship with colleagues has lots of benefits such as an increase in communication, trust and camaraderie, there could be some pitfalls to this and part of which is the situation you are currently in with your now distant friend.
While I know your relationship with your friend is important to you, it is also important that you know there will be changes in the dynamics of your friendship due to the new role. Albeit this does not necessarily have to be a radical change from good to sore, but you need to exercise caution and constraint as a leader of a team.
To effectively manage the transition, you should:
1) Have The “Difficult Conversation”
Engaging your friend in a discussion on the current situation will be a good way to start. It is preferable that this conversation holds outside of the work environment and in a relaxed place where you both can freely express yourself. Let her know how much you value the friendship and that you will be counting on her support in steering the team in the right direction for the greater good of the organization. Be open to feedback from her on how you both can manage your friendship without interference with your new role. A true friend will want you to succeed and have your back at all times. However, be prepared that this may not necessarily make things better. If your relationship does not improve after this conversation, do not get yourself worked up over it and do not feel bad about doing your job.
2) Set Clear Boundaries
However, if you sort things out with your friend, it is expected that you set clear boundaries by being able to separate work and friendship. While you may remain cordial, there will be some changes you will need to effect in your workplace friendship routine such as a reduction of the chit-chat during breaks. Not only will this make you transition mentally into your new role, it will also give the impression of neutrality to other members of your team thereby giving them the opportunity to communicate freely with you and trust in your leadership. Typical of workplace buddies, I am sure you both used to share workplace gist and banters. In your new role, it is imperative that you are prudent with the information you share with your friend.
3) Engage the Team
Create a balance in your engagement with your team and your organization at large. Position yourself as a leader who is open and accessible by constantly communicating with all the members of your team, getting to know them and the work they do. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your team members will also help you in the allocation of task and responsibilities in your team. Assure your team of your full support and consistently display the competencies that earned you the position. By doing this, your team will not be in doubt of your ability to do the job.
3) Set Clear Performance Expectation and Give Feedback
After understanding the role, strengths and weaknesses of every member of your team, you are then able to allocate duties to individuals based on their competencies and give feedback accordingly. Setting clear performance targets and expectations will ensure that there is clarity and people can be appraised and given constructive feedback. With this, you will be able to assign tasks to your friend and give feedback on how she does without her or anyone feeling you are being biased.
4) Be Objective and Fair
Your relationship with your friend and teammates must reflect the tripod of equity, fairness and objectivity. You must ensure there is a level playing field for every team member and this must be unequivocal. For instance, any favor or regard you extend to your friend be sure to do the same to other members of the team. Do not be seen as playing favorites as this will undermine your stance on fairness and by extension your ability to lead. Divorce your emotions from your ability to wield the big stick whenever and wherever necessary. This may mean you issuing a query to your friend if she is not performing or other stringent decisions if need be.
Finally, keep your eyes on the ball, always remember your commitment is to the achievement of the company goals while developing yourself into a world-class professional.
I am rooting for you.
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Adewumi is an experienced Human Resource Professional with over 8 years of experience across the Research, Real Estate, Oil & Gas and FMCG industries. She has a proven track record of designing and implementing HR practices that synchronizes strategy and talent to drive superior performance. She has a passion for continuous improvement, imparting knowledge and adding value to society. Adewumi holds a bachelors degree and a masters degree from Obafemi Awolowo University. She is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria (CIPMN) and a Certified Senior HR professional by the HR Certification Institute She is married and blessed with two boys.