Ask Matt: What do I do when my friend is also my boss?

  • Article by: MATT KRUMRIE
  • Updated: June 30, 2014 - 1:47 PM

Dear Matt: I was a finalist for an internal job promotion but did not get it. However, one of my closest co-workers did get the promotion and she is now my boss. We are friends and do things outside of work and now this person will be someone I report to. I’m worried about my future — and my relationship with my friend.

Matt says: Learning to adapt to a new and sometimes uncomfortable work situation can understandably be tricky to navigate, says James Kwapick, Robert Half District Director. But it’s also important to recognize that while your working relationship has changed and is different, it doesn’t mean you can’t still work well together.

“Understand that your new boss did not make the decision to promote herself so try not to be resentful of that person,” says Kwapick. “It is normal for you and the newly promoted person to feel some awkwardness.”

Since you have a good relationship with your new manager, be honest and let her know that while it’s not personal, you are struggling with not getting the job, says Nicki Leritz, Human Resources Director of Renewal by Andersen, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Andersen Corporation. Talk it out, then ask your new manager to help you with your professional development. Maybe she can teach you some things that helped her get the promotion. That could help you improve in your daily duties, become more valuable to the company — and possibly put you in position to be up for another internal promotion in the near future.

“Together, create a development plan and work toward a timeline together,” says Leritz. “Consider looking into other roles within the organization that would provide you with a growth opportunity and the same fulfillment you currently have in your role.”

Keep in mind, however, that this person is now your boss and must be given the proper respect. It might help to discuss the matter with members of your professional network who may have experienced similar setbacks and can provide suggestions for overcoming this particular situation. Or consider talking to someone in your human resources department; they may have some good insights they can share on your development and future opportunities. Ask for feedback from the hiring manager on areas that you could improve on.

Recognize that there are a wide range of factors which can influence promotion decisions, many of which may be out of your control. One of the biggest challenges of a missed promotion is that you may not feel motivated or happy about not getting that job, but that does not mean you cannot continue to be successful or happy at that employer.

“Stay on track,” says Kwapick, “and be a team player by setting goals and keeping your focus on the future.”

Contact Matt at jobslink@startribune.com.

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