What to do when your working relationship changes.

Blog post: What to do when your working relationship changes

Are you new to leadership this year?

Perhaps you have had an internal promotion.

Or maybe you came to the position from another context.

You may even be leading a different team this year.

Whatever your circumstance, there is one crunchy-bit that can cause some angst…navigating the terrain when your working relationship changes.


Let me explain.  

Sam wins an internal promotion to a position of Team Leader. They are now leading a team different to the one they were in, but they still know the people well, and consider them friends. They also occasionally socialise together.

The team moves through the forming stage where they are settling-in together. Sam is keen to make a good impression and ensure people are happy. They are hugely supportive, even to the point of taking-on jobs their team would normally do to try and support them.

When they reach their first ‘road-bump’, Sam isn’t sure how to address it. 

Do they ignore it, not wanting to cause waves for their friendship? 

Perhaps they address it, at the risk of losing a friendship?

What to do?


This is a common experience for many leaders new to leadership, a new environment or a new team. We need to ask ourselves, “How do I maintain professional distance so I can lead, whilst also maintaining my friendships?”

There is a saying that Leadership can be lonely. There are some things you can share with people, yet often you are holding a lot of information in confidence. Where once you could chat through things with your friends/colleagues, this may no longer be the case on many work-related matters. This can be a lonely space to navigate. The dynamics of your relationships are changing, and it can seem like you’re alone.

Having worked alongside many leaders over the years, there are a couple of tips that may help navigate such instances.

Be explicit on what ‘hat’ you are wearing: Some leaders find it helpful to state before a conversation “I’ve got my leadership hat on” or “As your friend…” or “As your colleague…” This then clarifies what position you are speaking from.

You may even wish to renegotiate the terms of your relationship with people you consider friends. This may include sharing the changes in your role, and inviting their perspective, then renegotiating how you will operate moving forward so you can both do your job and maintain a friendship. 

Also personally reflecting on what it means to lead and be a leader and what your moral purpose is can support you when you need to make some tricky decisions. 

Finally, some people will embrace and support you in your leadership role, and others may struggle. Sometimes it requires understanding that there is a season for everything, and there may be times when your friendship circles change.


Go well this week Amazing One.

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