How to Work For a Newly Promoted Friend

In a tight economy, your boss may be out the door. What if a peer takes his place instead of you?


Who’s making more money than you? Probably the person you report to. That’s why they’re often let go ahead of the folks below them — folks like you.

To capitalize on this situation, I turn to one of my golden rules: “Know your boss’ boss as well as you know your direct boss.”

When times are tight, high-priced executives become disposable. Their superiors (including owners and board members) conclude they can save money by putting in a “caretaker” boss, perhaps a former subordinate of the person fired. The company gets two jobs done for the price of one.

If you’re the one tapped for promotion, congratulations! But what if you’re not?

What if it is your close friend?

It could be your peer in the next cubicle. Or it may be a friend from another department, or even worse, someone you helped get a job at the company. It could even be a manager you were already friends with but did not report to in the past. Now, under this consolidation, that person may have been given several departments to manage, including yours. So now you are reporting to your friend who never managed your department before.

In today’s dog-eat-dog economic environment, reporting to a friend may not be as easy as it would have been in smoother times. Remember: The closer you are to the top, the closer you usually are to the door. And no one wants to be the next one out.

Here are my bulletproof ground rules for dealing with a friend who just become your boss:

1. Remember that he’s the boss.
Your friend has his own job on the line. “Friendship” is just a word. It’s like the saying “blood is thicker then water.”

2. Don’t flaunt your friendship with your friend.
She may be doing two or more jobs, and she will be counting on your friendship and, more importantly, loyalty. You may not want peers in the same department even to know you have a personal relationship. It can get very sticky.

They will resent it, and it will backfire on both of you. Don’t ask for special favors.

3. Tell him you’re proud of him.
Congratulate him first thing, and let him know that you want to see him shine. Ask what can you do to make his job easier and transition faster.

4. Let your friend, now your boss, “take the lead.”
Wait for her to determine what her priorities are — your friendship or being the boss. After all, she is in the driver’s seat. Your opinion is fine, but she’s now the “new boss,” and she’s calling the shots.

5. Maybe, just maybe, give him a copy of your resume.
This would apply, even if the person who is the new boss were not your friend. Often we are at a company for a long time, and even our boss — new or not — really doesn’t remember our experience. Having an up-to-date resume at all times helps people understand how you have grown. (If you need a leg up consider working with certified resume writing services.) In this case, your friend may know your children’s birthdays and that your mother-in-law is a pain, but he may not know you have two master’s degrees and experience managing a team yourself from a previous job. The resume is subtle and key.

People are still losing jobs. Let’s face, it is easy for employers to find someone, anyone to do your job, for less money today. Even a six-figure job like yours.

Last but not least: Perhaps you’ll notice a change in your friendship; you still need and like your job, but you no longer like your friend as much. Take my advice and stick in there like a good employee.

New friends are far easier to come by today than new jobs. Let me know what you think.