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Challenge: When Being Friends Disrupts Your Influence

Challenge: When Being Friends Disrupts Your Influence

CHALLENGE: This director was having trouble managing expectations of her friend who was in her department and her role as director. She was having internal conflict and it weakened how she saw herself.

BACKGROUND: The director, who we will call Carla, struggled with needing to please everyone and keep everyone “happy.” The rest of the team saw her internal tension and thought they might be the problem.

Carla knew she was losing influence and needed to change her perspective.

Managing Expectations

Carla thought she was “managing expectations” by trying to keep people happy. This only complicates relationships because people at work crave transparency and authenticity. They want their boss to be direct with them. 

Carla and her friend had been working at the company for many years together on the front line before Carla was promoted. Carla had not felt she needed to “do anything differently” with her friend when she took on her new role. She continued to have lunch with her friend and they both were frequently seen laughing and having coffee.

Other people in the department felt as though her friend was not pressured to work as hard and tension ensued. Because Carla had never spoken to her friend about how their time at work may change, her friend became offended that Carla was not defending her.

Having friendships at work is only possible when boundaries are clear. And it is Carla’s responsibility to have the conversation first with her friend because she is the one who will be in this new role.

Do Not Make Assumptions

One reason Carla and her friend were in conflict was because they both made assumptions. This is why it is essential to have those crucial conversations.

There is a fine line between being a leader and a friend, both require honesty, integrity and trust. The challenge comes from having to clearly define your role in different situations. For example, when you go to lunch at work, if you are the leader, you can’t gossip about what is happening behind the scenes or complain about your boss.

And as the friend you have to respect these boundaries and not feel slighted. Some leaders and their friends at work make the decision, that at work, they will not socialize or spend time together, because it causes trouble for both of them. Have that open conversation and decide what is best for bother relationships.

3 Examples of Expectations for the Leader and the Friend

  1. Honesty (but this doesn’t mean “tell all”).
  2. Respect (each have to honor the commitment to the role and the job they are doing).
  3. Agree that the relationship may look different than it did before (that doesn’t mean you are less friends).


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