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How to Manage Employees Who are Your Friends

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Being a manager can sometimes be difficult in itself, but the role can become even more complicated when the employees who report to you are also your friends. More often than not, people who become their friend’s manager, are promoted into a higher position, and were previously colleagues of their now new employees. This change in hierarchy can leave both you and your friends feeling awkward, and may have you questioning how you are supposed to manage them.

If you are a person who was promoted to management in your current company, this is something that should be celebrated. You should not question taking the promotion because you will now be your friend’s supervisor. Try following these simple steps that will help you maintain your friendships, while still being an effective supervisor.

  1. Have a Conversation with your Friends Upfront

    This new transition may have you feeling uncomfortable, but it will most likely make your friend’s uncomfortable as well. Clear the awkwardness in the air by having an upfront and open conversation about the new changes to come. Be honest about how you will be as their supervisor/leader, and set your expectations of them right away. Let them know that although changes are to come, that you do not think of them any differently and want to continue the friendship.

  2. Avoid Picking Favorites

    In some situations, a friend becoming someone’s manager could lead them to believe their life will get easier, and they can get away with certain things at work. If you communicate with your friend(s) that you will favor them over the other employees, this is not effective leadership and will create numerous challenges for you. When you are having your upfront conversation, make sure that it is clear to your friend(s) that you will not pick favorites. You don’t want them going into the new transition with that mindset, and if they do, they may be taking advantage of your friendship.

  3. Set Higher Expectations

    Because these employees are also your friends, you need to communicate with them that they are held at higher expectations for this reason. As your friends, they should want to help you be the best leader you can be. They should not be purposely trying to give you a hard time and make you look bad. Both you and your employees should be maintaining solid and effective communication with each other, to ensure these standards are being met. If everyone stays on track with their responsibilities, it will result in smooth sailing for both you and your friend(s).

This transition from a friend to supervisor isn’t easy, but with the right approach to this situation, it can make a world of difference. Try using the tips and tricks we mentioned when making the change to your new dual role as friend and manager, and also the 10 Keys, specifically keys 4,5, and 10.

4. Expecting Excellence—Setting high expectations for employees.

5. Requiring Accountability—Upholding and reinforcing individual responsibility to the organization.

10. Realigning Your Efforts—Evaluating your own efforts to determine if they match your desired outcomes.


Danielle McLaren