If Your Work Friend Is Your New Boss, It Complicates Things

Dear Office Mom

I have an awkward situation at work. I went to lunch with this female co-worker a few times in the past, and we became friends and even connected on Facebook. She got me a birthday gift and gave me other little things. I ended up getting her something after to repay the favor. However, recently, she was promoted and is my supervisor. My other co-workers and I think it was an unfair promotion because she has been here less than a year. They got rid of our other supervisor who we all loved. There is a suspicion that she is having an affair with a VP, and that is how she got her promotion. She asked me to go to lunch with her a couple of times, but I have made excuses. She asked me to go to lunch with her again this week, and I don’t want to. I think it is inappropriate. She is also responsible for hiring and terminating employees, so it’s somewhat tricky. Can I have advice on this, please?
— Ivy

Hi Ivy,

Image Source:  Pexels

Image Source: Pexels

Thank you for contacting Your Office Mom for help with a work problem. Anytime you feel uncomfortable on the job, it’s good to a). get input from an objective party and b). follow your instincts. Sounds like you did both.

I know how it feels to lose a manager (one that you love), only to have someone new step in to fill her shoes. It’s a big change event at work and resistance to the new boss is quite normal. When there is a cloud of suspicion, as there is in your case, it can be even worse.

Since there is no evidence of an affair, I suggest you give her the benefit of the doubt and don’t speculate or let the opinion of others influence you. Time will tell if her promotion was appropriate or warranted. You and others will know if she indeed needed more time on the job to be ready for more responsibility, or she slept her way into her management position. If she proves to be a good supervisor and can meet the challenges of her new role, that speaks for itself, even if it still stings. You are likely to encounter many unfair situations during your career. It is unfortunate, but you need to learn how to handle change and disruption effectively.

So, let’s move on to your question. You don’t want your friendship with your boss to continue because you think it’s inappropriate and rightfully so;  it may be perceived as favoritism if your relationship is different. So, how do you approach this work friend turned boss?  Here is my advice to help you with this problem:

If you didn’t have co-workers to consider, I would suggest going to lunch and talking about it away from work. Since that’s not the case, approach your new supervisor in the office and ask for a few minutes. Tell her you appreciate her invitation, and have valued her friendship, but now that her role has changed you don’t feel comfortable going out to lunch. You can also explain the new reporting relationship, makes friendship impossible, and it’s important to keep things professional.

Since your boss makes hiring decisions and writes performance reviews, she should recognize this is the right thing to do. However, I’ve seen many newly promoted supervisors struggle with the transition. Being a new manager and having direct reports that were or still are friends, makes this a challenge, so be prepared for that. It’s that whole “am I a buddy or boss” dynamic that takes a little time,

Having a new manager is an excellent opportunity for the team. New managers are often looking for help in how to manage and lead effectively. You can help determine how you interact and work together.  Your life at work may be more tolerable if you focus on relationships and teamwork. Being upset about the new reporting relationship won’t help you or your peers. You and the team may want to suggest team luncheons or other types of interactions that are positive and recognize accomplishments. If luncheons are not the right vibe, think of something else that is. But, seize the moment and start your new boss off on the right foot. Good luck!