I hope you can offer some advice on a question that is troubling me. I work in a company as a graphic designer. I was hired 3 years ago to work along side another designer who was already with the company for 3 years when I was hired. We work as equals, and we work quite closely and well together as a team. She is a really great person and a friend.
The company has been doing some reorganizing and we are steadily growing. Since we are the only two creatives in the company, our positions are not really fitting well into the organizational charts. One of us needs to become a manager of the other so that when we hire more designers the team will be a better fit within the company. This is difficult because she is the senior person but doesn’t really have the skills or the desire to take on a more managerial role. I currently do all of the strategic planning for our position, I keep her on task, manage all of our timelines and come up with most of the new initiatives.
I have expressed an interest to move up to our manager but felt that since my co-worker has been here longer that I would be stuck under a glass ceiling. My manager assured me that with the proper preparation that I would be a good candidate to move up despite seniority.
A few months after my discussion with our manager, our office was re-designed and new cubicles were ordered that are much smaller. My co-worker is distressed over where we sit and noticed that only managers get window seats and larger cubicles. Now she came to me and said she wants to ask to be my manager so we can have a better seat in the office.
She asked me if I would want to work under her and also asked if our manager was talking to me about moving up. I didn’t reveal that I had already discussed this with our manager and now I don’t know what to say or if I should even say anything.
If I do end up getting a promotion over her, how will it look that I wasn’t honest about my ambition for the position? How should I handle this?
You have a great gift for description – I understood all the nuances just by your writing!
Here’s what I think. I don’t believe that this woman is really a friend, but a co-worker you are friendly with – that’s a big difference. I also believe she’s pumping you for information, one, because she doesn’t trust you, and two, because she wants the position herself, even if it doesn’t appear as if she has the desire to lead. She’s talking down to you when she says, “I should be the boss because I’ll get us window seats.” I wouldn’t vote for a political candidate who offered me dross instead of substance, would you? Does she consider you less intelligent than she is thinking that you would fall for that?
It appears that there is a lot going on under the surface here.
I do not believe you will be able to maintain a friendship with her if you are the boss. Being the boss means you will have to be able to correct as necessary, and make the hard choices that the increase in money and rank will entrust to you. It’s not a bad idea to begin distancing now. I know that may seem cold, but I believe it’s practical – put kind professionalism over friendship. If neither of you get the position, then you can commiserate together.
Be honest with her that you’re also going to apply for the position. She doesn’t need to know that the manager thinks you’d do a better job unless you do become her manager and she has difficulty with it. Encourage and validate her skills now, and then. I believe the best bosses encourage their employees to shine – this is a great time to show your leadership skills.
This is a short answer, but I believe it’s the only possible one. Start preparing for the position in your clothes and actions. Promote your co-worker, your boss, and your team.
But know, you probably will not be able to keep the friendship. Make sure that is a sacrifice you’re willing to make. Being the person in charge doesn’t always mean you’ll be liked, and somehow all managers have to come to terms with this. The best managers will try not to take this personally.
I wish you luck – I also wish you luck with whatever decision the company comes up with. If they don’t end up promoting you, try for the position you want in another company. It seems obvious to me, from just this one letter, that you have a lot of promise.