The workplace is often where we end up
meeting our greatest friends. In fact, some
people spend more hours per day interacting
with co-worker friends than with
their own families. Tight bonds can form
between peers, but what happens when the
fitness friend you have been working with
for years gets a promotion and is now,
gulp, your supervisor! What if you also interviewed
for that promotion, but it went
to your friend instead? Here are some tips
for dealing with this situation so you can
preserve your friendship—and your job.

Acknowledge the New Situation

The moment your friend becomes your
supervisor, things are going to change—
not only in your professional relationship
but in your personal relationship as well.
The first action you should take is to formally
acknowledge that you will both
have to make some adjustments. Ask your
friend if you can sit down together to talk
about the new work dynamics. Although
your friend is certain to be excited about
her promotion, she is probably feeling
anxious about the same issues you are, so
it is essential to get them out in the open.

Here are some of the biggest areas of
adjustment that you and your new
supervisor/friend will have to talk about:

Lunches and Breaks. The two of you
may have spent your free time at work
hanging out between clients or eating
lunch together. Now that your friend has
more responsibilities, she may not have
much time to socialize at work. Accept the
fact that your social interactions during
work hours will decrease.

Topics of Conversation. The types of
things (and people) you discuss at work will
alter drastically as a result of your friend’s
new position. Previously, you may have
shared opinions about certain policies,
other co-workers or even management.
However, your friend is now in a role that
requires more diplomacy. You should understand
that it may not be appropriate to vent to your new supervisor about things or
people you discussed together in the past.

Management Restrictions. In her role
as a manager, your friend will be unable
to share certain information with you. At
times she will be required to maintain
confidentiality and withhold details from
other employees, including you. Be considerate
of the fact that she now has different
job responsibilities and additional
loyalties to the company, and do not insist
that she include you in the loop.

Once you have talked about these
changes with your friend, you will both
feel less anxious about how the new work
situation will affect your friendship. You
will enter this new phase of your working
relationship with clear expectations and
the opportunity to strengthen your personal

Deal With Your Feelings

Let’s face it. If a friend gets promoted over
you (especially for a position you wanted),
you are bound to have some residual feelings
to resolve if you want to sustain your
friendship and your job. While you may
initially feel slighted, overlooked or neglected
by management, remember not to
take things personally. Management’s decision
likely involved many factors beyond
those you were aware of, so respect and do
your best to support the choice that was
made, for the benefit of your clients and
other employees.

You must also be vigilant not to pressure
your friend for special favors or attention.
If you arrive late for a session or class,
or miss a staff meeting, do not presume
your friend can or will simply overlook it.
More important, don’t get upset if she calls
you out for your behavior or work performance.
You cannot expect your new supervisor
to treat you more favorably than
other staff members—and you certainly
should not feel irritated when she does not.

Get Back to Business

Once you have adjusted to the new work
arrangements, the best thing you can do
for yourself and your friend is to focus on
your own job. Try to shine in your work
performance. Revamp your workout routines
or classes, suggest new training opportunities
for staff, update and organize
your client files or offer to head up new
client promotions. In short, do whatever
you can to remind yourself why you enjoy
your job. Turning your attention to
the fun aspects of your work will take
your mind off the potential awkwardness
of having a friend as a supervisor. Getting
back to business will also give your friend
and other managers a positive reason to
notice you. It may even provide you with
a chance to build or strengthen friendships
with other co-workers, which will
help make up for the decreased interaction
with your friend.

Be a T.R.U.E. Friend

Communication and willingness to compromise
are the keys to maintaining any
relationship—particularly in this type of
situation. Remember the following tips to
help you and your friend make the work
transition as smooth as possible:

Take a Step Back. You should both try
to remove yourselves from the emotion of
the event and look at the reality of how
your relationship will change. Discuss aspects
of your friendship that will alter, and
plan accordingly. For example, your different
schedules may not allow you to have
lunch together as often as you did in the
past, so arrange times to meet for a chat or
a meal, even if it is outside of work hours.

Respect the New Boundaries of Your
Work Relationship
. Talk with your friend
and let him know that you realize things
can no longer be the same. Ask him what
work elements he sees changing for him,
and tell him about any concerns you have.
Keep in mind that this situation is new for
both of you and, as a result, you need to
reformulate the parameters of your professional

Understand What Is Required of You as a Subordinate.
Remember that management has certain expectations regarding
the behavior of junior staff. Like it
or not, your friend is now your boss and
you should conduct yourself with him as
you would with any other member of
management. Do not compromise your
friend’s position or work reputation by using
your friendship to gain access to privileged
information or special treatment.

Expand Your Own Opportunities.
While you may have been passed over for
promotion this time, it’s not the end of
the world. In fact, it could be just what
you need to spur your own growth. If you
feel you are ready to take on more responsibility
and there are no more management
openings at your current facility,
venture out and see what else is available.

Although the advantages of having your
friend become your supervisor may seem
few, nothing could be further from the
truth. Challenges like this can strengthen
the bonds of friendship tremendously,
since you must both deepen your appreciation
and compassion for each other in
order to maintain your personal and professional

SIDEBAR: When You Become The Supervisor of a Friend

What do you do if the tables are turned
and you
find yourself in the supervisor
position? Use these tips to help yourself
handle the situation professionally:

If you have never been a manager
before, consider taking a management
skills workshop or reading a
business skills development book to
help you understand your new position
and responsibilities.

Be upfront and honest with your
friend about what you need and expect
from her, both as an employee
and as a pal.

Treat your friend with respect in
front of other staff members, but
refrain from being “chummy.”

Never discuss management issues
with your friend, either in or outside
of the workplace.

Do not make exceptions or grant
personal favors for your friend;
doing so could jeopardize your position
and create resentment among
other staff members.

Do not feel pressure to “make
amends” to your friend just because
you got promoted. Your friendship
and job performance will suffer—
which will make neither of you feel
any better.

Mary Bratcher, MA, DipLC, is a wellness
coach and co-owner of The BioMechanics in
San Diego. For over a decade, she has used
principles from psychology and life coaching
to help people develop better strategies for
dealing with life’s demands. She is also a presenter,
an author and a continuing education
specialist for ACE.