The 5 People You Meet When You’re Promoted Over Your Friends

Jun 23, 2017 1 Min Read

Career ladder

Congratulations, you’ve just gotten promoted. I hope you like your salary package and all the grey hairs you’re going to have. At its best, management is going to be a mix of excitement, wonder and feeling like a boss.

At its worst, it’s going to feel like a big pile of … (let’s not go there). But since you’re already in, I thought you might need some help. Specifically if you’ve just been promoted to become the boss of your peers.

Imagine that — just a couple of weeks ago, you were hanging out together after work; commenting on how pretty the new human resources (HR) girl is. Today, you’re no longer one of the boys anymore. You’re the man among the boys. How are your new staff and old friends going to respond to you?

I can guarantee you, it’ll be awkward. But how you respond will determine whether you become a Trump or an Obama.

Here are some of the characters I’ve seen over the years whenever someone gets promoted to become the boss of his/her friends. And here’s how to deal with each one.
This might interest you: Don’t Confuse Friendships And Business Relationships

The Fan

The fan is your happiest friend when you get that promotion. He will excitedly congratulate you, offer to buy you lunch, and might even pledge his loyalty to you:

“Trump couldn’t even get Comey to do this, but I’ll forever be your supporter, bro.”

Seems great right? What’s better than a ‘Yes Man’ who will do your every bidding?

But the problem with the fan isn’t immediately obvious. Sometimes why he’s really happy is because he thinks he’s going to get privileges from you. After all, you’re the boss now. But you’ve been friends even longer. Surely you’ll approve everything he wants, right?

As for the “do your every bidding” part; be careful if the Fan starts slacking in his work — because he knows the boss a.k.a. his best friend will go easy on him.

What to do? In a new boss role, you’re going to need all the support you can get. But you’ll also need to go to great lengths to show that you’re just and fair. Everything needs to be objectively reviewed and dealt with fairly — even if it means reprimanding an old friend.

Remember: Not only must justice be done; it must also be seen to be done.
Read also: Don’t Start A Company With Your Friends


The Professional

The great thing about the Professional is that she’s professional. The sad thing is, she’s not as commonly found as we would like.

The Professional might not show great enthusiasm that you’ve been promoted — but she’s just really sizing you up. If you have what it takes to lead the team ̶ even in your “probation” stage though — you can still count on her to deliver quality work.

Why? Though she’s not sure if she can look at you as a superior yet, she at least respects the chair/position you hold. But the key is to demonstrate credibility.

If you screw up though, she might quickly look to change departments, or even resign. You can be sure she already has a long list of admirers.

What to do? Demonstrate great respect for her abilities and expertise. You’re not going to gain respect from the Professional by “faking it till you make it” or trying to show you’re smarter than her. Rather, have authentic conversations on what each of your strengths are and how you can complement each other.

If you can gain her respect, she’ll become the pillar of your team.


The Disengaged

So once upon a time, it was really fun to hang out with Jackie. He had the funniest, most sarcastic things to say about all the stupid things management was doing. Even if you didn’t necessarily agree, it was fun to bash management.

Guess what, he’s your problem now.

Gallup tells us that 87% of employees (worldwide) in today’s workplace are disengaged. He’s actually one of the majority, which means, assuming you’re the motivated kind — you’re the minority.

The positive side is you’re actually in a unique position to help. Way better than a completely new face to the team. Since you were once (and hopefully still are) friends, your chance to reach the Disengaged is by gaining his trust.

What to do? Just because you’re the Disengaged’s boss now, it doesn’t mean he can’t be honest with you. Instead of allowing your new relationship structure to end your open conversations, I suggest you encourage him to systematically list down all his grievances in a private meeting.

Then go through the list with an open mind, and how you can potentially help. The key isn’t to solve all the problems immediately (that would be impossible). The key is for management (you) to acknowledge his problems, and suggest how you can work together to improve things. Part empathy, and part reminding the Disengaged he has a part to play too.

Of course, statistically you’re not going to be able to convert every Disengaged soul. But you can give them the choice to join you to make things better.


The Skeptic

The Skeptic normally doesn’t show outright rebellion towards your new regime. She might display it in a less aggressive way, like choosing to remain silent in meetings, whispering at the back when you’re speaking, or doing just the bare minimum. But her body language is a giveaway.

The Skeptic will be looking to see how you’re going to run things differently — if you’re trying to stamp your authority on the team. She probably doesn’t like change, and her loyalty is with her ex-boss for now. But the interesting thing about the Skeptic is she’ll likely go along with the majority. So if everyone else is on board with you — she’ll join the party too.

What to do? Instead of being a distant boss, work in the trenches with the Skeptic. Be patient before you implement any major changes. Given enough time and social proof, the Skeptic will eventually turn. You just need to suppress your ego (and be professional) enough till then.


The Rebel

I remember having a rebel once on my team. He wasn’t happy that I got the job; maybe because I was younger and didn’t know as much about the industry as him. Maybe because I was once his “apprentice” too. Years later, someone told me he actually wanted the job for himself.

My boss and I tried multiple ways to reach him. We had face-to-face conversations; phone conversations; emails — but nothing seemed to work. He still displayed open defiance of authority, and would only cooperate with other (equally senior) team members. The good news is we were trying so hard, that it was very clear to all other team members that management wasn’t the problem.

I think he was actually trying to get fired. Well, eventually he got his wish.

Jealousy can kill any relationship.

What to do? The rebel will suck all your time and attention, and demoralise the whole team if not quickly addressed. Being skeptical or unsure (like the Skeptic and the Professional) is one thing, but open defiance of authority is another. I suggest you quickly have a direct conversation with the Rebel to give him a chance to mend the working relationship. If he doesn’t improve though, it’s time to get HR involved on procedures dealing with insubordination.

Sometimes you have to make difficult decisions for the benefit of the whole team. And if it comes down to someone who’s an irrational Rebel and a boss who’s done all he can to integrate the Rebel — who do you think gets the boot?
Recommended reading: 5 Unspoken Rules To Promotion


* * *


Management is never easy. And being promoted from your peers comes with its own set of challenges. A lot of experts might disagree, but I think it’s actually easier than coming to a brand new team though.

Because along with your challenges, you have a series of unique advantages too. If ever in doubt, fall back to genuinely caring for your new subordinates, and having the company’s best interests in mind. Let that guide you; so even when you face your most difficult challenges — you’ll know what’s right.


Give your new managers their best shot with our First Time Managers Programme, an exciting integrated course with gamified sessions, digital simulations, mobile learning, action projects, and more. This award-winning programme is brought to you by Leaderonomics, powered by KNOLSKAPE. To find out more, write to us at

Share This


Aaron is the founder of, where he writes about optimising time, money and relationships. He was previously head of the campus team at Leaderonomics.

You May Also Like


Impact of a Texas Electrical License on Leadership Growth

Acquiring a Texas electrical license can serve as a catalyst for undergoing transformative growth and assuming leadership roles in this field.

Aug 30, 2023 5 Min Read

Close up of a dog's face (employee loyalty)

Are Organisations Giving Millennials Enough Reasons to Stay?

Connie Lee, Head of Leaderonomics Youth, shares the 5 key areas to building the foundation of employee loyalty within millennials.

Nov 19, 2018 24 Min Podcast


Work Hard Now To Enjoy Fruits Of Your Labour Later

Social enterprise company to transform the nation through leadership development contents and programs.

Oct 30, 2016 24 Min Video

Be a Leader's Digest Reader