From colleague to boss: Can we still be friends?

Friends with their team before they were promoted, this practice manager wonders if those friendships may cause problems for them as a manager

A veterinary practice manager writes:

I have been working at a practice for a few years I absolutely love the hospital, the team and the clients. There are 4 doctors and 9 support staff, and we all get along really well. We’ve been lucky to have a stable team for a long time, with very little staff turnover. We are friends outside work and frequently do things together on the weekends. We all have fun at work. It’s a great environment: No gossiping and we support each other.

I was recently promoted to practice manager, and I am concerned how this will impact my relationship with the team. How can I be their ‘boss’ and remain their friend as well? Where do I draw the line?

It sounds like you’re in a great position and you may not actually have anything to worry about!

It’s much easier to manage a team that you know well, a team of people who like and respect you, than to come in to a workplace where you are the ‘new boss’ and everyone is fearful of change.

You have an additional advantage in that the hospital is well run, the team work well together and it doesn’t sound like there are any issues that you need to address immediately. So, I think you may be worrying about something that may never become a problem!

Sure, you’ll encounter managerial challenges. You’ll have to have some difficult conversations from time to time, and make decisions that are not supported by every single team member. But it’s much, much easier to do this when you are ‘among friends,’ then when you are fighting an uphill battle every step of the way.

Here are a few things to pay attention to in your new position:

Don’t gossip or favor individuals: If someone comes to you with a problem, or even worse if they come to you to gossip, don’t react like a friend and engage in the toxic conversation with them. Remember that you are the manager. Act like a manager, not their friend.

Don’t lose their respect: I don’t care what people say, but if you get drunk in front of your work colleagues and vomit all over their shoes, they WILL lose respect for you. You can continue to go out with them on the weekends, but don’t cross the line.

And since friendship seems to be key in your practice: Have a better relationship with each team member than they do with each other. That way, each person will come to you first and confide in you. Their loyalty will lie with you, not with another team member.

Enjoy your new role. Many practice managers reading this will agree that you are in an enviable position. Don’t worry about it too much and don’t try to hard!

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