Marty's your best buddy at work. He has been your confidant and ally for years. Suddenly, management announces a big promotion in your unit: Surprise! Marty's the new manager, and that means Marty is now your boss.
You think, "I'm just as qualified as Marty. And I've been here longer. Why didn't I get the promotion? Besides, now my relationship with Marty is ruined. I've lost my best work friend."
What to do?
First, take a few moments to realize that you're not the only one affected. The entire work dynamic is changing. All the other employees knew and reacted to Marty in one way. Now that he is the boss they must relate in another. A big adjustment is going on for the entire group.
Secondly, how is Marty acting? Is he still the same friendly, easy to talk to guy he was before or is he so busy he doesn't have time to even say "hi"? Has the newfound power gone to his head? Does he have new work friends now based on his position? Is he caught up in some political jockeying that you don't know about? Any of these situations are possible and how you react can save both your job and your friendship. Here are some tips to help you through:
Give yourself some time to grieve. Even if Marty goes out of his way to remain friendly and approachable, your workplace relationship has changed. You'll never have that peer-to-peer, relaxed, can-tell-him-anything feeling with Marty again. But, you can remain friends with Marty. It will just be a different type of friendship.
Think about the situation from Marty's point of view. The promotion is probably a big opportunity for him. Let him enjoy his success and show your support by congratulating him. Also, Marty's no fool. He knows the work vibe has changed. Take a while and see how he handles relationships with you and the rest of your unit.
Be respectful. Yes, he is now is your superior. Even if he begins to act badly, respect the position if not the person. Don't bad-mouth him no matter what. Let his actions speak for him.
Keep your eyes open for opportunities to advance your career on any new project Marty may be initiating. He knows you well. He's aware of your strengths. Don't become a "yes" man or woman, but if you remain in his good graces you may have a place on his new team.
Do your job well and make Marty look good. The most valued employees are those who are competent, can be counted on and who help the boss look like a star.
Don't fret about being passed over. You don't know exactly why top management chose Marty. Your time may be coming and it may be through an entirely different group in your organization.
Marie Stempinski is founder and president of Strategic Communication in St. Petersburg. She specializes in public relations, marketing, business trends and employee motivation consulting. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.