Many first-time managers consider the transition from being co-workers/friends to manager is the most challenging hurdle encountered when getting a promotion. If you are in this position, first, congratulations, and second, get the skills you need to be the manager you were made to be.

Labor optimization (balancing labor and profits), labor compliance (following all applicable laws), leadership, sales, marketing, inventory… it can get overwhelming to think about the tasks at hand, but you always need to start with foundational skills and build on them. In general, delegate tasks that can be done by others, and use technology to support redundant tasks while developing your expertise.

If you have recently been promoted from within your team, to best manage your friends, (and anyone really), follow these suggestions:

Be fair – This can be tricky when it comes to friends (and those co-workers who have been less than friendly to you). Never show friends any favoritism, nor be harder on them to prove otherwise. All staff have become employees first and any favoritism will only create polarization, which is not only bad for productivity, it may be illegal. Failure to comply with labor laws can be costly emotionally and financially.

Documentation – Document EVERYTHING, good and bad. This way you can show that you are following company policies with fairness should the need arise. Documentation is what you will use to cover your backside when you need to make a decision to promote, fire, train, discipline and more. It should become your new best friend and is critical to labor compliance.

Allow relationships to change – There are several things you must realize now that you are in this position of leadership. Let go of all old grudges you may have had toward any of your former co-workers. Wear the “manager” uniform, not the “friend” one, recognizing the difference between your on and off the clock relationships. Accept that some of your relationships will change, and this may be very difficult.

Get help from a mentor – Look for someone who can help you get through this period of transition. Promoting into management can be tricky to navigate. To truly grow and develop, having someone who has been there, and done that, will go a long way in your success. A mentor can also help you understand areas where labor compliance, as well as other issues, can trip you up.

Deal with disciplinary issues quickly – Get to the root of the issue by asking questions, rather than making assumptions, and try to get at least a few points of view while documenting everything. Be specific, be factual (no opinions), and set out a very clear consequence and future action you want from the employee.

Promoting to a position superior to your friends and co-workers can be tricky, but with determination to become a good manager and leader, you will find success.


Zuus Workforce supports managers by being a worldwide resource for labor compliance and labor optimization for the retail, restaurant, hospitality, security, healthcare, and manufacturing industries. Have questions about how they can support you? Contact them today.