Common Purpose / 27 February 2024

The Great Juggle: 3 Ways To Balance Friendship & Authority As A Manager

Manage your mates – in a good way.


Whether you’ve just been promoted to a position more senior than your fellow colleagues, or if you happen to find a genuine friendship beyond the workplace with the people you manage, balancing professionalism and friendship in the workplace can be tricky. But, with the right approach and mindset, a happy medium is absolutely possible. Here, we take a look at some of the techniques you can try if you find yourself struggling to manage your mates.

Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries

If you are transitioning into a position that is more senior than your colleagues, make it clear that your role now entails a different set of expectations. Do this by communicating openly with them, and be sure to include the ‘why’; “I can no longer work on XX now because I’m working on YY as part of my new role”, or “Because I am now accountable for the team to produce XX, I am going to need to delegate some tasks to you as and when your workload allows.”

As hard as it might be to assert yourself in front of people who you consider your friends, as well as colleagues, it’s important to remember that you are the person who has the potential to fulfil the tasks your role entails (that’s why you were hired for it in the first place!), so be steadfast and confident in that knowledge.

Be transparent… with everyone!

Transparency with your team in any senior or management role is absolutely crucial when it comes to being respected and trusted. When you communicate honestly and explain the rationale behind decisions and changes that might affect your team, it fosters an environment of safety and trust.

If for example, a major shift is occurring within your organizational structure and you are tasked with letting your team know, be sure to tell everyone at the same time. Of course, you might find it easier to open up to those on your team whom you’re closer with, but be mindful that things will likely impact everyone equally, so everyone has the right to the same amount of information and in the same timeframe.

In addition, be proactive when it comes to addressing your team’s concerns. Instead of waiting for them to come to you, or to hear it through a friend, ask everyone if there is anything they want to raise or discuss. This dispels ambiguity and reinforces the confidence others will have in your leadership.

All’s fair in distribution

A good leader will recognise their team’s strengths, and they will harness this effectively to achieve good outcomes. But when friendships come into play, this can complicate things. Special treatment, anyone?

As a leader, it’s up to you to ensure that workloads are evenly distributed, and to listen to your team if there are issues in spite of this. Yes, you might have a closer relationship with one individual over another, but at the end of the day, they are part of a wider team, and in order for that team to thrive, everyone needs to pull their weight effectively, and oftentimes, evenly.

This also applies to providing feedback about performance. Ensure you maintain balance in the way you hold your team members accountable. At the end of the day, you’re all there to achieve an objective, and everyone should play a role in ensuring that is met. If things are falling short, it’s up to you to address the issue – no matter who, or what is responsible.

Each of these tips should help you to navigate your position in a professional manner – no matter how close you may be with your colleagyes. So go forth and utilise your management skills for the role you’ve been given – you were chosen to do it for a reason!


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