From colleague to boss


Today was my brother's speech day, and of course he won a bunch of awards, so the entire family bundled along down to Hornsby RSL. During the night, there was an interesting guest speaker who spoke of his personal experiences since leaving Normanhurst Boys'.

One section of his speech which particularly resonated with me, was his mention of going from working with his fellow staff as colleagues to becoming their boss. Paraphrased, but he said something of this measure:

Going from colleagues and friends with people to being their boss is more difficult than you expect. You're going from being their friend to telling them what to do.

Having been friends with those that I work with and then also become technically their 'boss', I can say that sometimes I have not been able to be firm with them, such that occasionally I end up doing the work myself because I don't like to tell others what to do or chase others in their work. I tend to use language that suggests I simply request or suggest something, rather than directly allocating a task.

I prefer a structureless approach to managing, but often this isn't the preferred approach for many.

Of course, having said that, now I've felt the other side of the story too, and it's difficult in that respect too, having friends tell you what to do. Often it's not the idea that a friend is telling you what to do though, because you would be more than happy to help them, but how they are telling you, or rather asking, you to do something.

Is it, or does it sound like, a demand or a request? Would you ask your friend to do something usually like this, or would you expect them to understand because you're now their boss and the friend aspect has been set aside? This all matters. To me anyway.

This kind of thing will always be hard, and unless you never make friends with those you work with, this kind of situation is unavoidable. All the same, I would prefer to work in a more structureless environment in the future. Strict corporate culture and hierarchally structured organisations irk me, which is why I often prefer smaller companies for their more relaxed culture.