When Your Friend Becomes Your Boss: Do you become a Rogue or Stay a Friend?

The quantity of people losing their jobs is still on the rise. Economists predict the national unemployment number to reach 11 percent (which is such a fake number, because regionally the numbers are much, much higher and don't even reflect those who have stopped looking for work).

Readers of my books and blogs and viewers of my TV appearances have been telling me that when the word "recession" or "economic turndown" is used in conjunction with anyone being laid off, down-sized, "offered a package," or simply fired, the word "recession" gives a boss any excuse to fire almost any worker, and blame it on the economy. Let's face it--it's easy for employers today to find someone, almost anyone to do your job, for less money.

Who do you think makes the most amount of money where you work? Probably your direct boss, so bosses are often let go before the subordinates are let go. One of my golden "Viscusi Bulletproof Rules" is to "know your boss' boss as well as to know your own direct boss." These "Bulletproof Rules" are mentioned in my HarperCollins' book Bulletproof Your Job: 4 Simple Strategies to Ride Out the Rough Times and Come Out On Top at Work. My book will help you keep the job you have or land a new one in less than 30 days.

Believe it or not, bosses are essentially very disposable. Their boss--be it an "owner," another manager or an HR executive--usually thinks they can save money by putting in a "caretaker" boss or maybe a subordinate of the boss just fired, as the new boss. After all, in today's market, title is as valuable as money and if the alternative is out the door, who is going to say no to the promotion, even if it's for very little more money? The company gets two jobs done for the price of one!

Well, what if that person who is promoted is not you but your close friend? Perhaps he/she is your equal at work, and maybe sits in the next cubical. It may be a friend from another department, or even worse, someone you helped get a job at the company. It could even be a manager that you were already friends with, but did not report to in the past. Now, under this consolidation, they have been given several departments to manage. So now, you are reporting to your friend who never managed your department before. Think television's "Ugly Betty."

In today's dog-eat-dog economic environment, reporting to a friend may not be as easy as it would have been in easier economic times. Why is this? Well, remember that the closer you are to the top of the chain, usually the closer you are to the door. So, that new boss does not want to be next one out. They may be doing two or more jobs, and they will be counting on your friendship and more importantly, loyalty. You may not want peers in the same department to even know you have a personal relationship. It can get very sticky.

Here are my "Bulletproof" ground rules for dealing with a friend that just became a boss. You can find more on my website www.BulletproofYourResume.com and of course in my HarperCollins' book, "Bulletproof Your Job".

Stephen Viscusi's rules for dealing with a "friend" who is now your boss: (For simplicity sake, I'm going to refer to this close friend as a "she" in this article)

1. Remember this person is now your boss and has her own job on the line. "Friendship" is just a word. It's like the saying "blood is thicker than water." They now have "boss blood," and you still have subordinate "water in your veins." Always keep that in mind.

2. Don't "flaunt" your friendship with your new boss to your fellow colleagues. They will resent it, and it will backfire on both of you. Don't ask for special favors.

3. Congratulate her as soon as possible. Let her know how "proud" you are of her and that you want to see her shine. Ask what you can do to make her job easier and her transition faster.

4. Let your friend, now your boss, "take the lead" on what her priorities are- your friendship- or her being the new boss. After all, she is now in the driver's seat. Your opinion is fine, but she's now the "new boss" and calling the shots.

5. Maybe just maybe, give her a copy of your resume. This would apply, even if the person who is the new boss is not your friend. Often, we are at a company for a long time and even our bosses, new or not, really don't remember our experience. Having an up-to-date resume at all times helps people understand how you have grown in your position. In this case, your friend may know your children's birthdays and that your mother-in-law is a pain, but they may not know that you have two masters' degrees as well as experience managing a team from a previous job. The resume is subtle and key.

6. Last but not least, if you notice a change in your friendship, from your friend-now-your-boss, and you need your job but you miss your friendship, or even if you no longer like your friend as much as before, take my advice, and suck it up and be a good employee.

Stephen Viscusi's conventional wisdom for today's job market is: New friends are far easier to come by today than are new jobs.


You're always welcome to write me with your career dilemmas, and I'll answer you on this column.
Follow me on Twitter (@WorkplaceGuru) and add me on Facebook or email me at: stephen@viscusi.com.

Disclaimer: The scenarios and events portrayed in this article are products of the author's imagination.
(c) Stephen Viscusi. All rights reserved. Article can be duplicated in part of full without author's permission.
Stephen Viscusi is the author of two books about jobs and the workplace. Charles Gibson from ABC's World News calls Viscusi, "America's Workplace Guru".

Viscusi is a TV broadcast journalist on jobs, a headhunter and resume spin doctor. His latest book, Bulletproof Your Job: 4 Simple Strategies to Ride Out the Rough Times and Come Out On Top at Work (HarperCollins) has been published around the globe in at least 9 languages including Chinese, Korean, Spanish and Portuguese.

Viscusi is also the founder of www.BulletproofYourResume.com.

Viscusi's headhunting and workplace advice is usually considered counter-intuitive to the conventional wisdom. Viscusi is not a career or life coach. To the contrary, his current book, Bulletproof Your Job has been described as the New Millennium's The Art of War, by Sun Tzu, and that's how Viscusi sees the workplace. He's your workplace General.

Each week, Stephen Viscusi volunteers his headhunting career advice to the world.
His disciples can be celebrities, politico, world leaders, heads of industry, and some are just ordinary people who write him for advice. It's like Tony Robbins advising Al Gore or Deepak Chopra advising Michael Jackson (wait, scratch that one).

You can get your own advice by writing to Stephen at stephen@viscusi.com or Facebook him or Twitter him at WorkplaceGuru.