• Mon, Jun 21 2010

Bitch, Please: When Co-Workers Start Working For You

Do you have issues with your no-longer-best girlfriend? Is your coworker driving you crazy? Megan Carpentier is here to give you the life advice that you don’t want to hear, told in the way you absolutely need to hear it.

I have been working at the same company for a couple of years, and I totally love it. I mean, it sounds crazy, but it’s been my whole life for the last couple of years, and I worked my ass off, and I actually got that mythical thing called “a promotion” that everyone told me didn’t really exist anymore. That’s great; the problem, actually, is that my promotion means I’m in charge of my former co-workers, some of whom aren’t exactly as keen as I am on this company (or my promotion, for that matter). If they’re not ignoring me afraid that I’ll rat them out to management for stealing office supplies, they’re showing up late, treating me with disrespect and just generally making being the boss way more difficult than they would have for a stranger. And I thought these were my friends! What do I do?

Two words: team meeting. Get out of the office, take them with you and tell them what the deal is, as you see it. Are you a manager? Sure, but you don’t have to be Management. Sell yourself to them as much as you sold yourself to the higher-ups: you’re the buffer between them and those they don’t like, and you know what the problems are having lived them. You moving up doesn’t mean you’re turning your backs on them, because you can’t do well unless they do well, and you’ve got no interest in seeing your friends get fired (let alone having to do it). Recast your promotion as something that’s good for them, because you’re on their side rather than someone brought in from the outside beholden only to Management.

That said: the ugly truth is that they aren’t really your friends now: they’re your employees, and just like parents who try to be their kids’ best friends end up with fucked-up bratty kids, you can’t do your job effectively and keep them as BFFs — not that, from the sounds of things, they were ever actually your BFFs. I mean, you said you loved the company, you worked like a fiend and you moved on up to an office with a door… and only then did you mention that your friends weren’t so happy with your move up. Regardless, you have to find that balance between being a nice boss and being a good boss, and between fixing your broken interpersonal connection and keeping your position. So, do what you promise: use your experience with your now-employees and being in their position by being a better boss to them than you had. Figure out what they need to work effectively, where you can contribute to that and how you can utilize your experience to be both a good boss to them and a good employee to your managers.

And, stop taking it personally that they treat you like management. You are.

When you find out your friend’s boyfriend is doing something skeevy, what’s your responsibility?

It depends on how skeevy and how good a friend she is (and what kind of person she is, and whether she’ll find out you knew). When it comes to me, I tell first and questions the wisdom later because, were I in the position of the clueless girlfriend, I’d want to know and I wouldn’t blame the messenger. Plus, certain kinds of skeeve have lifetime consequences (sexually transmitted infections, children, bankruptcy), so if I can stop him from hurting her worse, I feel like I ought to try.

That said, these things usually go over two basic ways: either she sides with him anyway, and never talks to me again; or she dumps him and blames me for a short period of time for found out first and for having told her. You are, after all, putting yourself in the position of being the person — and possibly the only person — who knows her secret humiliation, and that’s never easy for someone to deal with. I mean, maybe your friend is the coolest person out there, and maybe she will be different, but you never really know until you’re in that moment.

So, I always tell, but I know the consequences: I’m not going to hold onto someone else’s guilt for him, and her health and safety are more important to me than being her bosom buddy if that’s the way things shake out. But each person has to deal with that their own way.

If you have a problem with a friend, relative, coworker, or other person in your life, email Megan at advice@thegloss.com. If you have a problem with your boyfriend, you should probably just try talking to him.

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