Work Hard

Ask A Boss: “I’ve just been promoted and now I need to manage my work friends.”

In HLN’s new Ask A Boss series, we ask Ashley Lowe – Health and Wellbeing Manager at the Newcastle United Foundation – what happens when relationships blur the lines of authority in the workplace

Written by Becky Hardy
Published 14.09.2021

Ashley Lowe, Health and Wellbeing Manager of Newcastle United Foundation

It can feel really uncomfortable when you first realise that you’ll have to line-manage a friend. I know first-hand, as I previously worked alongside my partner and ended up becoming his manager, (in case you’re wondering, we’re still together!). 

But there are a few simple things you can do to keep friendships and relationships intact while being the successful line manager of a high performing team.

At the Newcastle United Foundation, we focus a lot on mental health through our Be A Game Changer campaign, and one of the key aspects of the campaign is encouraging open and honest conversations. With this in mind, it’s totally ok to let your friend know that you feel a bit uncomfortable about the changing team dynamic as well. Just because you’re a line manager doesn’t mean you have to pretend you find everything a breeze. Speak honestly with your friend and acknowledge it might be difficult – and a little weird – but that’s ok because it will become more normal over time and it doesn’t have to affect your friendship outside of work.

Also, wherever possible, try not to talk about work outside of work. It can take a while to settle into this, but keeping your work relationship separate from your friendship is key to maintaining both.

It’s really important not to treat your friend differently from other team members by giving them perks like better shifts, etc. That will never go down well. You also need to be careful that you don’t try to overcompensate for this by not rewarding them, for fear it looks like special treatment. Having clear and transparent approaches to shift management, job roles, appraisals, salary structures and promotions should eliminate any problems relating to perceived “special treatment”.

It’s also key never to gossip or vent frustrations about work colleagues to your friend. Be respectful and treat all team members the same. If you need to vent (as we all do from time to time), do so to another manager rather than to the people on your team.

It’s worth thinking about your social media, as well as the team dynamic changes. Who are you Facebook friends with? Think carefully about what you’re sharing on social media that your team member(s) might see and consider how it might impact them.

However, if you get to the point where you’ve tried really hard and it’s simply not working, then move on! Our careers are important to us but so is our home and family life. I no longer work with my partner, even though we managed it for several years. We eventually found that we were bringing home disagreements into the workplace – and none of your colleagues want to hear an argument about the washing up!

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