Newly Promoted Supervisors: Balancing Leadership and Friendship

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Supervisors often attempt to maintain their relationships and friendships even when they should be focusing on their leadership responsibilities. This can make it a challenge to achieve the results expected by management and difficult to address unacceptable behaviors and performance. In our Front Line Leadership program, we focus on these three tips for balancing leadership and friendship:

Balancing Leadership and Friendship Tip #1: Focus on Your Leadership Responsibilities

Your real friends will realize that at work you need to be the supervisor and that means you will explain expectations, give direction and provide feedback and correction. Some of your previous co-workers might think you will treat them differently based on your past relationship. If you give in, you will create perceptions of favoritism and lose credibility and respect from the workgroup. Reflect on your behaviors to make sure you are modelling what you expect from your workgroup. Lead by example.


Balancing Leadership and Friendship Tip #2: Spread Your Time and Attention Across the Workgroup

When promoted from within, it is natural for you to have established close relationships with some co-workers and not others. As the leader you will want to make sure that everyone in your work team, including the people you didn’t like much as a co-worker, get your time and attention. When you exclude people you destroy teamwork and that will cause productivity and quality to drop. Even when you are on a coffee break or lunch break, it is important to avoid always hanging out with the same people.


Balancing Leadership and Friendship Tip #3: Hold Your Team Accountable 

Accountability requires consequences – positive consequences when things go well and corrective consequences when things go poorly. Some supervisors will avoid applying appropriate consequences. This will cause a decline in performance and puts the leader’s job in jeopardy. Follow the adage See Something, Say Something – acknowledge when individuals meet and exceed expectations and address behaviors and performance that are below expectations. By setting a high standard, you will raise overall performance and gain respect from your group.


If your former co-workers give you grief about your new leadership role, meet with them in private and explain that your role has changed and that you need their help to achieve success. Remember above all else, employees want to feel a sense of satisfaction from a good day’s work.


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One Comment

  • This is very good, basic advice for any leader. The people you work with are heart of any business and if given the respect they deserve will far exceed expectations.

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