Article: Relationship management: When your former colleague becomes your boss

Employee Relations

Relationship management: When your former colleague becomes your boss

If you have concerns, raise them, but before doing so you have to make sure it doesnt stem from jealousy.
Relationship management: When your former colleague becomes your boss

Your mind will be flooded with a mélange of thoughts when you hear that your colleague is now your new boss. There will be confusion and curiosity about what’s going to happen next. Will both of you still enjoy your cup of chai and hang out in the evenings or do you have to change your ways and behave more formally and maintain a distance? Or should you be happy that since you knew them from before you are going to remain thick friends? Or, if you don’t share a healthy rapport with them they will perhaps make it difficult for you in the days to come? Questions aplenty, but answer is one: do not obsess. 

Change is the only constant factor

Change is inevitable. Everyone progresses in their career ladder and so did your colleague. Whose fault is it? Not theirs apparently.. It is an exciting phase for them, but they too are dealing with this new equation. The only way the two of you can move forward is accepting the changed equation.

This is definitely a tricky situation to be in, especially if you’ve been friends before. The only way out is to accept that relationships at work fo undergo change and not necessarily for bad. People imagine things are going to fall apart and behave differently. The truth is that you may at first feel distant, but give it time so that both of you settle-in. Just don’t assume everything will turn sour between the two of you or will remain glossy as it was earlier. Stay neutral," said Smarita Mohanty, Talent Acquisition Partner  at Flipkart.

Stay away from gossipers

When asked about the psychological impact of gossips about to changed relationship dynamics, Dr. Pulkit Sharma, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Spiritual Therapist at Imago-Centre for Self said, “Whatever be the relationship that you share with your coworker, gossip is bound to happen. You will hear a lot of what’s being talked about. Some may say you deserve the retribution as if it were a divine providence. Such hearsays can intensify your existing feelings of resistance towards your new boss and complicate your relationship. But, do you want to start-off with such negative vibes? No, I suppose? I advise people to keep a safe distance away from such gossipers. Take each day as it comes.”

Convey you don’t want them to be partial

Meet them in person and explicitly convey that you would appreciate if they treat you the same way they will treat any other member of the team. No matter the former relationship, work comes first and should in fact remain your priority. When you say this, they will feel reassured that they don’t have to play favourites, especially when the two of you have shared a cordial relationship earlier. In addition to this, tell them that you will continue to work as you would have under any other boss. Don’t just say it. Mean it too. When you’re given a feedback have a healthy discussion even when it is baseless according to you. 

You don’t have to fight a crusade just because you think they don’t know how to do their job. Solution to every problem is achieved by talking about it. Besides, it will take time to get used to their management style. 

Demonstrate your trust in them

Establish a new bond of boss-employee relationship. Smarita agrees: “Some people dwell in jealousy because their former peer is now their boss, but it shouldn’t be the case. You may have seen relationships go sour, but if you want harmony then the responsibility is on your shoulders as well. Set a new tone to your working style and talk to them like you would with your boss. Let them know that you have no qualms about it and that you look forward to their feedback and that they have your full support in any project the team gets.” This should put them at ease and they will acknowledge your composure and also work on their behaviour with you.” 

Keep no space vacant for resentment

If both you and your former colleague were contending for the same position then the situation is slightly more fragile. You will be naturally upset and probably be wallowing in self-pity and self-doubt. But, this can snowball into your new relationship with your now colleague-turned boss. When you sense resentment developing towards them, acknowledge it yet at the same time overcome it. You don’t need to feel dejected because this is the new reality and you need to express your intention to work together, seamlessly, without friction. Have a positive outlook not matter how much you wanted that position. You not being picked up is just a signal for you to work better and harder. 

Above all stay away from judging them. Don’t think of how you would have been a better choice for the role or how they lack efficiency and caliber to be managing you.

Everyone has a different way to handle things and your jumping to conclusions is going to harm you more than anyone else. If you have concerns, raise them, but before doing so you have to make sure it doesn’t stem from jealousy. “Hostility breeds hostility so remember to remain consistent inside-out,” adds Dr. Sharma. 

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Topics: Employee Relations

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