Professional Development

The delicate act of balancing a friend that becomes your boss

Things get complicated when you have a friend-boss.

words by: Natasha Marsh
Mar 30, 2021

Change can be awkward, uncomfortable, and tricky to navigate — especially in a work setting. I used to work for this company, filled with young people at lower-level positions — myself included. We all got along, found solace in our mutual irritation for our passive aggressive supervisor, shared responsibility when one of us made an error, and found ourselves at NYC bars after 9-5 schedules, dipped into 9-9. For about a year, our bond was one of the best things about working at that company. The thing is, having friends at work can increase performance, productivity, and overall job satisfaction.


However, things started to change when a supervisor took a liking to my coworker. This coworker was now seen as the star player, awarded with extra responsibility, and groomed for the job vacancy on the horizon. It wasn’t long until he was promoted and the four of us had to now see him as our boss. When the power dynamic changed, things got really complicated. We no longer laughed as much, shared after work drinks or even spoke much. There was a lot of tension around him telling us how to efficiently do the very task that we all shared a week prior. To us, he had crossed over to the dark side, we still liked him, but we found it hard to be friends with him when he was our superior. He was now someone that evaluated our performance and the way we saw it, that could cause issues.


Studies show that 90% of first-time managers have a difficult time setting up boundaries between being a boss and a friend. Granted the transition is hard for all parties involved, but below is a guideline of how to get through it.


Both parties have to be willing to acknowledge and accept the power shift

At work, it’s far too easy to sweep things under the rug, especially if the situation is already uncomfortable. But try your hardest to maintain a level of clear and open communication. Be proactive and honest when explaining how you really feel about the situation – even if it’s harsh. Try saying, “This new dynamic has been hard for me, but I value our friendship and want this transition to be as smoothly as possible. Which is why I’d like to call a few things out to ensure we are on the same page.”


Accept your friend as your boss

Meaning, don’t go to them for the gossip or vent sessions. You must now respect them as you do any boss. If you do need to vent, find someone else on your team.


Be picky with social media shares

We aren’t saying unfollow your new boss, but be cautious of what you allow them to see now. Now that they are your boss, boundaries should be in place. Navigating the boss-friend dynamic is difficult, to say the least. In the midst of the information and social age, most employees today are friends with their boss on social media. Most employees today have their bosses mobile number and have met their significant other and or done outside tasks for them.