Q&A: My Colleague Just Got Promoted. Should I Befriend Her?

Question: My co-worker’s a nice bubbly gal and we're pretty good friends. We even hang out after work and do things like booze together. Then last week she was promoted and now I report to her. She keeps assuring us we can still hang out but I’m not sure if things are still the same. So how?

Answer: Before we go into that, ask yourself first: Are you happy for her? Sometimes people resent the fact their colleague had been chosen for promotion over them and start shutting their new boss out. This is probably why your co-worker seems anxious to assure you that things are the same. If you’re not feeling resentful, that’s great. Your new professional relationship with her could open doors to opportunities – future promotions, for example.

However, please note ‘new’ and ‘professional’. There are some people who have no problems being firm friends with their bosses, but this typically depends on how well both parties negotiate the fuzzy line between personal and professional.

A more conservative approach acknowledges the shift in power dynamics. That means it’s unwise to treat your colleague with the same horizontal comfort level as you had before.

Consider the following questions before deciding on whether to stay BFFs with your new boss:

Can you handle being perceived as the boss’s pet?

So you hang out with the boss after work like good ol’ buddies. You think it’s your life and no one should interfere. But people in the workplace will notice – and boy, can some of them talk. Worked hard and got a bonus? Favoritism. Your capabilities earned you leadership over a new fantastic project? Favoritism.

Your colleagues may also see you as a potential ‘spy’ for your boss. This could lead to exclusion from activities and conversations you were once part of.

Is your new boss capable of separating personal from professional?

Your boss may be struggling to adapt to her new role as a manager. If she cannot discern between personal and professional obligations, your close friendship with her could end up sabotaging your career progress. To avoid hurting your feelings (and the friendship) she may avoid giving you the performance feedback or difficult tasks you need to advance your career.

Or she might just head the other direction and withhold you from an opportunity you deserve to avoid accusations of favouritism.

Are you friends on social media with your new boss?

A manager is responsible for her team’s performance, and social media can help her do that. Long lunches, late night drinking that lead to hangovers at work and so forth which you show on your social media profiles will give away your locations and show how productive you really are at work. It may be wise to tweak your privacy settings if you're friends on social media with your colleague-now-turned-boss or censor some posts that you might have once shared openly with her.

Remember you’re not obligated to share everything personal with her, even if she asks. While there are some benefits to having your boss as a friend -- as opposed to an enemy, it’s easier for someone higher up on a career ladder to assume things are the same between the both of you. The risks to their career may be less than yours. Start conservatively first, and decide again later after observing how your co-worker handles her new role.

Ever faced a similar situation like this at work? Share with us in the comment box below!

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