When Friends Become Managers
Ironically, it’s expectations that are the problem.
By Bri Griffith, Carlow University
I go to a small school, so I see the same faces every day and attend several different club meetings throughout the week.
I’ve noticed a lot of the same people are in charge of multiple clubs on campus—all friends of mine in some capacity. I view a friend being in charge like I do a parent coaching their kid’s baseball team: At first, you’re excited, but then you find it may create unnecessary tension. The friend/boss dynamic is difficult to navigate at times due to stress, responsibility and respect.
So, here’s what to remember when a friend’s telling you what to do.
Favoritism Looks Bad on You
When you’re in a working environment, you have to put the inside jokes aside and focus, because nobody else will get them nor will they care to. Having been on the other side of the “teacher’s pet” equation, obviously favoritism is irritating when you’re not being favored.
If your friend is in charge or leading a group, don’t expect special treatment from them because of your close-knit relationship. Set your friendship aside for the time being and focus on the task at hand. The other people in the group or at the meeting will appreciate not having to deal with skewed perspectives and unfair decision-making.
My mom’s a nurse, and her boss favored one nurse in their unit over the others. She made inconvenient phone calls, ignored duties and seemed to be given easier assignments. Favoritism honestly doesn’t benefit anybody, except the person being favored, but then even the group views them differently. Keep this in mind while working under the wing of a friend, because favoritism will make others feel uncomfortable.
They Have Shit to Do
One of my best friends was in charge of putting together a spring break trip last year, and I had a hard time not fucking around with her during the meetings. She had to pull me aside and essentially call me out because my antics blurred her focus.
Friends are wonderful distractions, but you have to realize how stressful it can be trying to put something together, especially a trip involving a large group of students. Keeping everything in order is difficult, on top of syllabi full of homework and projects. Remember, in a work setting your friends need you to be on their side and not provide them with reasons to remain unmotivated.
Pull Your Weight
Referring back to favoritism, it’s important to do your part, and not take advantage of your friend’s leadership position. I was a Strong Women, Strong Girls mentor and site leader my sophomore year, and was responsible for a relatively small group of other mentors, all very close friends of mine.
We met with our mentees once a week, but there always seemed to be a couple of my mentors/partners missing. What bothered me more than anything was that none of them ever notified me of their absence(s) in advance. They didn’t text me to let me know they weren’t coming, which affected my planned lesson for the week.
If you’re in charge, you shouldn’t constantly be reaching out to your team, begging for better communication.
Just because you’re my friend doesn’t mean you get to blow off your responsibilities—you’re supposed to be an active member of the group regardless of who’s in charge.
Don’t be late and expect to be filled in later; don’t not show up at all and still call yourself a member of the group. Pull your weight, and have respect for your friend, especially when they’re running the show and counting on you to have their back.
Let Others Speak
When your friend is the leader, regardless of the circumstances, your voice doesn’t all of a sudden overpower the voices of others. Of course you should express your opinions and ideas, but don’t cast a shadow over other members of the group. I know I tend to be louder and more obnoxious when one of my closest friends is running a meeting, which can definitely be annoying.
In addition to the side conversation(s), as a First Year Mentor at school, we follow a simple rule: Step up, step back. Step up and speak when you haven’t in a while, and step back when you know you’re speaking too much. If your voice is drowning out the rest, the more reserved people will fall through the cracks, even though they may have game changing ideas to bring to the table. Knowing when to chime in and when to relax is effective while communicating with others, and working under a friend’s command.
Be There for Them
Seems obvious, but stress will take a toll on your friend(s), and you may end up becoming their punching bag. Sometimes, it’s easier to lash out at people you’re more comfortable with. I know after having been in charge of a number of clubs at once, I need time to complain about what’s not working, what needs fixing and who needs to do more.
In addition to offering your support, just listen to them.
Not saying anything can go a long way; let them vent their frustrations and move on, because advice isn’t always needed.
Also, don’t judge them. They may not be acting like the same person you watch movies with in your dorm room, but that’s because they need to put on their working pants and get shit done.
Although difficult, it’s possible to work with friends, and it’s necessary to know when to get serious. There’s a line you shouldn’t cross when your friend becomes your boss. You should be aware of when it’s appropriate to have certain conversations, and act a certain way. You don’t want to take advantage of a friend who’s thriving in a leadership position by not honoring their commitment, and you don’t want to expect special treatment from them either. What’s important is respecting them while they’re working, pulling your weight and supporting them all the while recognizing their impressive juggling of responsibilities.