I need some advice on managing a friend. 

This woman and I started in the company many years ago.  We worked together on the same team for over 10 years.  Worked the same projects, went on business trips all over the world and developed a friendship. 

We were also briefly romantically involved as well.  That was over a decade ago, it was short lived and we both moved on, married and have families.

My career has advanced faster than hers.  I was promoted out of the branch we were in and into a different division 7 years ago, I was promoted again 4 years ago.  During this time we drifted apart but were still pretty close, doing the occasional lunch or happy hour.  We would bounce ideas off each other etc.  A few months ago she did a lateral transfer into my division.  She is now a direct report to me. 

I was worried at first about managing a friend, but it seemed to be going ok for a while.  A couple months ago she told me I was "her best friend in the world".  I wouldn't go that far, and to be honest I would call her a close "work friend".  As far as others in the division go, there was some talk about possible favoritism, but those other employees concerned said so to my face, not behind my back and after talking to them, it doesn't seem to be a real concern for them any more.

A few weeks back she made a proposal and I went against her desired course of action. That is when it came tumbling down.  From a business point of view I think I am in the right and I chose to go another direction. I guess she feels betrayed (although she won't tell me). She has completely dissolved our friendshp and she is largely refusing to talk to me even about work related topics and does not ansswer the phone or worlk related texts from me.

I have two major concerns:  First do I need to just let go of the friendship? I don't want to, being a boss can be lonely, but I am worried this was a bad path to start with.  Is it possible to manage a friend, especially one that feels that strongly about it? 

Second I am worried she is going to self destruct over this. I do care about her. She is a high performer but the way she is sidelining me at work is not going to work out for her or our division. It can't. She doesn't have to be my friend (although I want her to be), but if she can't come around as an employee she probably needs to transfer for her own good.

Any advice would be appreciated.

pucciot's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

While you are accepting money from your organization you are agreeing to represent your organization in the workplace.

Care about her - Yes

Still have Platonic Love and Affection for her - Yes

Still find many ways to act in her interest - Yes

Be supportive of her - Yes

Friendly - Yes

Friends (active on going friendship) - No

Your Relationship has changed - accept it discuss it with her.

It will hurt -- and it is necessary. 

This is a time for emotional courage, wisdom and maturity.

It won't be easy.  I'm sorry.


You may wish to listen to and share with her this Podcast :


Can I Be Friends With My Directs?



Professional Subordination


Good Luck.


pucciot's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

Yes - 

You Need Friends - but not a Direct (or lower on the Org Chart - especially in your Department)

In fact, I would be cautious having any close friends in the same organization unless they are in another Department that has very little intersection with your department.


( --- Yeah, I have one close friend in my organization.   He is in a totally different department. Yes, He is lower on the OrgChart.  And I still have to be cautious about what I share about work around him. )


Here is a recent PodCast on the topic from Michael Hyatt.

Why Every Leader Needs Friends

mrreliable's picture

As I get older, I feel more like I have ESP. I can see things coming a mile away.

I saw, "Difficuty Supervising a Friend," and my thought was, "It's more complicated than that."

Then, yes, a friend with benefits.

Then, she did a lateral transfer into your division. My thought was, "Here we go."

Best friend in the world, perceived favoritsim. She made a proposal, and you didn't go along with it, she reacted . You didn't say if the proposal was of a more personal nature, but in any case she reacted as if she'd been personally wronged and betrayed.

From the facts you presented, I don't see any other conclusion to draw other this person has an agenda that you didn't seek, that does involve your past connections, and her motives are not completely professional. It goes without saying (a funny phrase just before you say something) that you should treat this direct in the same manner as you would any other direct, otherwise the concerns about special treatment would be well-founded.

You have this issue on your hands, and I think you know it. Hopefully you didn't do anything to help orchestrate this current situation. If so all bets are off. Otherwise, you need to deal with this direct the same way you would deal with any direct who shut down on you and expressed the same kind of opposition to your direction. Quick, direct, and with assertive commitment to the company's mission and professionalism.

In my opinion, worrying about saving any platonic friendship will not turn out well.

williamraymondreed's picture

Her proposal was entirely professional and business related, sorry if I misled anyone.  There is nothing going on and niether of us wants anything like that.  Without going into confidential details-she made a recommendation on the way forward for an account she works.  9 times out of 10 I go with her recommendations (or any of my employees really).  This time I did not think it was the best approach and told her to go another direction. 

Like I said, she is a high performer in a competitive division.  The way I decided to go could be construed as beneficial for her chief competitor in the branch (note this was also one of the people that was worried about favoritism when she transfered to the branch).  Not sure if this has anything to do with it.  She has been out on a business trip the last few days.  Maybe some time away will have cooled her down.

Thanks all for the help and advice.