Join the discussion

“Anybody can sympathise with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathise with a friend’s success”.

Oscar Wilde, playwright, novelist, poet, critic ( 1854-1900)

Imagine the following scenario; yesterday you and your friend shared adjoining offices, went to lunch together, chatted about being overworked and underpaid, and how you would supervise the department if you were the boss. Today you occupy the corner office with a view, eat lunch with management, chatted about profit margins, and how you need to manage the department and your friend now that you are the boss. This describes one of the more daunting supervisory assignments one can encounter: becoming supervisor of a friend. For the most part, people find a measure of comfort in the status quo and its predictability. Changes in any supervisory structure can be unsettling. However, when it involves the elevation of a friend from peer to a position of authority,the change can create conflict between the individuals as well. While not minimizing the formidable challenges associated with the supervisor/friend association, ranging from strained emotions, uncertain work performance, over-supervision, under-supervision, passive-aggressive behavior, and allegations of preferential treatment, the new reporting relationship can be workable. There is one exception. Consensual sexual or romantic relationships  between someone who has  supervisory authority over another should be prohibited.  

At the onset, it is critical the supervisor take the initiative to acknowledge the adjustments that will be required of the change in organizational dynamics and to set the tone for the future. The supervisor must communicate that the new role will now require him or her to focus on management objectives from a supervisory perspective, and similar to the previous supervisor, will need the cooperation of his friend in order for both to be successful. The supervisor must also convey to the friend  the need for genuine acceptance and respect for the change in responsibilities, and the need for them to shift from being viewed as office friends to being office-friendly.

It is crucial for the friend to openly support the new hierarchy, be committed to insuring supervisory success, and avoid creating an office environment that would give others the impression that he or she is pitting the supervisor’s authority against their friendship. The employee needs to abstain from accepting intended or unintended acts of favoritism from the supervisor, and willing to discuss this with him or her about its appearance and the ramifications it would have on both of them. Furthermore, the employee needs to understand that the supervisor  will make decisions that may  not be individually favorable. This should not be interpreted as a power play, but rather the exercise of judgement vested in the position.

Lastly, both the supervisor and employee must  be honest and trust each other throughout the association, and able to recognize if and when it is not working. Taking necessary measures, which could include the voluntary request for ressignment of one or the other, may  be necessary to minimize workplace disharmony and to maximize their continued friendship.

 This information is provided courtesy of

Leave a Reply