Q: I was recently promoted within my department to a position where I am now supervising my former colleagues and I don’t think they are giving me the respect they should. I ask them to do things, and they don’t comply. They think they are still my “friend” and won’t listen to what I say.
A: This is a common problem that occurs when a former co-worker is given supervisory power over his or her friends. It can be the elephant in the room, so to speak, with many corresponding emotions connected, such as jealousy, anger, depression, and pain. Perhaps the problem could be best solved by a straight ahead conversation about what your people want/expect from you and what you want/expect from them. Be open to their comments and ideas. Do not discount anything or get defensive. This will only hurt your cause. Be completely open to their thoughts, emotions and possibly even criticism. Instead of responding from where you are, do your best to try to see things the way they do. Look for the possible truth in what they are saying. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with them. Often the truth is multifaceted. You see your truth and they see theirs. It doesn’t mean either of you is “wrong,” it just means you have different perceptions. The best way to line up perceptions to find the middle ground is for you, as the supervisor, to work hard to understand it from where they are. You are already an expert on your position. Attempt to understand theirs as well as you do your own. This will often lead to clarity and open a path for negotiating a win/win solution.