I've been promoted over my colleague and now it's awkward

Trying to hold on to your lunch buddy will only result in embarrassment, says Jeremy Bullmore.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 14 Mar 2017

Q: I've just been promoted above my colleague and feel really awkward about how to behave around her. We started at the company at the same time and have become lunch buddies and close friends. Now I'm her boss and it no longer feels appropriate to get drunk together and slag off the management team. Any advice?

Jeremy Bullmore says: This happened to me once and it's painfully awkward.

Almost any action or comment from you is likely to be interpreted by her as patronising, insensitive, triumphant or creepy.

You'll feel you can't win - and in a way you can't.

About the only advice I can give you with absolute conviction is this: don't for a moment think that you can somehow preserve your relationship in its previous form.

You can't - and it will lead to endless problems and embarrassments if you try.

She knows, and you know she knows, that from now on you will have a direct influence on her career prospects and her income. And that means, I'm afraid, that you can't still be lunch buddies.

But don't just feel sorry for yourself: it's at least as awkward for her. The best you can do is play it absolutely straight. Be with her exactly as you are with other members of your team - and let time do the rest.

Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. Email him your problems at editorial@managementtoday.com. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.


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