That Moment When One Friend Is Promoted—And The Other Is Not

Posted July 7, 2020 by Mark Perna

Whether you’re now managing your friend or the other way around, here are some tips. Mark’s article, “That Moment When One Friend Is Promoted—And The Other Is Not,” published at on July 1, 2020.

Workplace friendships are part of a healthy professional life, but like everything else at work today, they can change quickly. A new study asks the question: What happens when one friend gets promoted—and the other doesn’t?

ResumeLab surveyed more than 1,000 employees uncovers insights on how people transition from workplace peers to manager and subordinate. Nearly 44% said they or a friend became the other’s supervisor, and this number will only rise as older generations continue to retire. Millennials are stepping into the ranks of management, with 62% of this generation now managing direct reports.

Chances are, if you haven’t yet experienced a promotion in the context of a work friendship, you will. Here’s how others have handled it—and some tips to make a positive experience for everyone.

Navigating a new dynamic

Fully 50% of the respondents admitted feelings of jealousy over their friend’s promotion. But afterward, nearly 69% said the friendship stayed the same. Some (14%) even reported that the relationship improved after one person was promoted, while 17% reported the opposite.

Newly promoted managers not only have to learn their new role, but they also have to navigate new relational dynamics—some of which may already be turning sour. Forty-five percent said they changed the way they spoke to their friends after becoming their boss. Establishing authority over their new subordinates was their greatest challenge (38%), followed by resolving conflict (31%), reprimanding (30%), coaching (22.1%) and receiving constructive feedback (19.4%).

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Almost 37% of new managers felt undermined by a workplace friend, and 16% of respondents confessed they had actively undermined their new boss. More than one in ten new managers had to fire a workplace friend.

How to survive a promotion—on either end

Managing or being managed by a workplace friend can change the relationship, no doubt about it. The following tips can help you keep moving forward in your career—before, during and after a promotion.

  • Quell your jealousy. If you’re feeling jealous or upset about a friend’s promotion, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you’re a professional. Channeling that feeling into something productive, like making a list of goals or tackling an area of personal growth, can turn a negative emotion into a positive force. Above all, don’t undermine your friend-turned-boss—it doesn’t help anyone, and could hurt your professional image.
  • Don’t gossip—just don’t. This applies before and after promotions. Thirty-seven percent of respondents regretted gossiping after they were promoted and advised others to avoid it. Even when there’s plenty of fuel for the gossip fire, stoking it can get you burned. Take the high road and say as little as possible—your future self will thank you.
  • Give your best effort. Nearly a fifth (19%) of all new bosses said they couldn’t trust their friends to complete work on time or accurately. If your friend is promoted over you, this should motivate you to continue delivering your best work, not the opposite. Managers come and go, but your work speaks for itself—and for you.
  • Assess your leadership style. The survey found that of all managerial styles, the consultative approach was most effective when managing friends. In this approach, the boss consults employees about business direction, but makes the ultimate decisions. Making sure everyone on your team feels valued and heard can ease the transition for everyone.
  • Stay professional, focus on your goals and keep moving forward—no matter what side of the promotion you’re on. Click To Tweet
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A power shift in the office brings a whole slew of adjustments, and while many factors in the situation are out of your power, you do have control over your own response. The bottom line is this: Stay professional, focus on your goals and keep moving forward—no matter what side of the promotion you’re on.

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About The Author
Mark Perna
Mark C. Perna is an international speaker and bestselling author. He also serves as CEO of TFS Results, a strategic consulting firm at the forefront of the national paradigm shift in education and workforce development.
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