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Friend or Boss: Redefining Work Relationships

Posted on 02-03-2014
Friend or Boss: Redefining Work Relationships

By Christopher Dodd, CPA

Take a moment to remember when you were in grade school. You and all of the other children, for the most part, silently and diligently worked on a class assignment while the teacher hovered over the desks. All of a sudden, someone walks in the classroom to discuss an urgent matter. Your teacher turns to head out, but before leaving, she tells everyone to remain on task and you are to tell her if anyone talks or misbehaves.

Just a moment ago, you were merely one of your peers, but now you are elevated to a level above them. Do you tattle on your best friend or do you only tell the teacher about the disruptive behavior exhibited by someone not in your favor? What will your classmates, much less your friends, think of you if you tell the teacher what really occurred in her absence?

As young professionals, a promotion is a sign we are progressing in our careers. Managers look favorably upon our work, but the new position also carries the unwanted stress of navigating the friendships you have with the people you are now required to supervise. Though young professionals can continue to maintain a connection with their co-workers, newly promoted professionals must understand what it means to be a supervisor and redefine their pre-existing work relationships.

As we navigate the trenches of the workplace, bonds between co-workers are often forged and friendships created, yet workers and supervisors don’t always see eye to eye. Young professionals see each other as equals and find comfort through commiseration and celebration. On the other hand, the boss is responsible for motivating employees by creating relationships with mutual respect and must also discipline employees, while always have the clients’ or customers’ best interests at heart.

At times, it may seem as though the work hierarchy has flattened and everyone is on level footing. As a newly promoted young professional, do not ever believe this is the case! Your job as the new boss is to keep everyone motivated by maintaining an atmosphere of harmony and cooperation, which may lead you to venture out, for example, to happy hours with your team. As much as you would like to let loose with the co-workers you have become close to, you must always remember you are the boss and everyone takes their cues from you.

If you are out all night drinking with the team and the next morning someone arrives clearly hung over, do you risk being a hypocrite and chastising that person for staying out all night drinking or ignore the situation and make it apparent to the rest of the team that partying takes precedence over job performance? If you need to show fellowship with the team, go out and have few drinks, but leave early. You should not be a part of any situation that may cause you to be ineffective as a leader. Just as you did as a new hire, seek out social interactions with others in your peer group. The sharing of experiences and advice from a group of newly promoted individuals is an invaluable resource in your development as a leader.

As a young professional who is promoted, you are one level closer to internal management, who is now trusting you with information to make your work more productive, yet the information cannot be communicated to your former co-workers. At this juncture in your career, it is highly important that any information you receive stays with you. You cannot be seen or overheard gossiping with your supervisees or even with your peers. This can be very damaging to your reputation and career progression. To keep a harmonious work environment, your associates, as well as your peers, need to feel comfortable that they can bring an issue to you without the fear of any repercussions. The rapport a manager has with his or her department and peers will determine the effectiveness of his or her leadership.

As a boss, manager and supervisor, trustworthiness is a quality required to be an effective leader. The role of a manager is to motivate employees to aspire to peak performance, which, in the end, maximizes company profitability. When a young professional starts a new job, there are times when their peers are griping and moaning about a situation in which they feel victimized. Even though the young professional knows his or her peer is really at fault, most of the time, the issue doesn’t get pointed out for fear of rejection.

As a newly promoted supervisor, honesty is required at all junctures, whether it is praise or criticism. In order to help the people in your charge, you must be able to objectively point out strengths and weaknesses. Always be clear and upfront with your employees. Do not gloss over or avoid an issue for fear of falling out of favor with your employees —after all, you may be hindering their future promotion in the process.

Being friends with your supervisees is a gray area for many managers. There are several pitfalls a young professional will encounter; however, a great manager can create productive working relationships by using prudent judgment, yet also staying friendly and trustworthy with employees. There is no one correct roadmap for traversing the management terrain, so seek advice and counsel from your respected peers and managers.

The transition from supervised to supervisor will never be easy, but make sure to be clear, objective and honest with everyone. Always remember: It’s more important for a manager to be respected than to be liked.

Christopher Dodd, CPA, is a tax manager for PKF Texas. Contact him at 713.860.1400 or cdodd@pkftexas.com.