SENYLRC Leadership and Management SIG – Feb. 1, 2023
Meeting notes: capturing ideas, concepts, programs, etc.
TOPIC: Friendship in the workplace
Participant was recently hired to a management position in an environment where she had worked previously in a lower position. She had continued to be friends with one of the people she now supervises, but now is finding it difficult to set boundaries. They don’t see each other much at work, except for meetings. The Director is trusting her to navigate the relationship professionally.
Participant is feeling lonely, feels like she has to distance herself from her friend, and feels bad about that, because the friend didn’t do anything wrong.
Participant is comfortable being friends with her Director because they previously worked together on the same level, and when both were promoted they decided to have a 1 year trial. It has worked for them to be friends because they work together a lot, talk about issues, and are comfortable enough with each other so they don’t worry about saying things they shouldn’t.
It is helpful having someone to be honest with, trust them to help you, not take away from you.
Participant is concerned about the perception of her friendship with her employee, that other employees will think she is playing favorites. It can be isolating and lonely, because there are certain things you can’t say.
But you need to be comfortable with people you are spending a lot of time with.
In a school system situation, Participant interned at a school in her system. It’s tough, stressful and challenging managing the expectations of the friends you left behind.
The previous person in participant’s management role had preferences for friends, and there was a lot of chatter and resentment. Being very cautious to avoid.
Everyone should be friendly. Not everyone should be friends.
It can be tough when people are promoted with you and around you and you have friendships, but then it gets awkward with other staff.
It’s hard as a director to have friendships because of favoritism.
What about dealing with sets of friends who are at the same level, both under you:
They fight, have to change schedules, then they have issues with gossiping.
It is hard to get friendly leadership role when most staff is older or has been there for a long time. They feel threatened and see new leader as the enemy.
There are legitimate generational and cultural concerns.
Participant was asked in an interview for a promotion: How will it be to supervise former colleagues? They answered: I know I can do it, but I can only control myself.
Participant got promoted and is now supervisor to her previous supervisor. They were already friends before either of them was a supervisor. Their experience has been good because they work well together and get along. Also, because they get along and have respect for each other, they are able to separate personal and professional issues, but also the professional issues are managed because they know that neither would intentionally do or say anything maliciously.
It was weird when it was time to do her evaluation, but only because it felt so unnecessary. We talk and evaluate things all the time.
A tip for being able to defend yourself from claims of favoritism is to document everything. It takes the personal feelings out if you can document legitimate reasons for doing or not doing things a certain way. Even if all it does is make you feel more comfortable that you are doing the right thing.
It can be hard to discipline your friends too. Though, that is different depending on your work culture.
This is so hard for us because we’re people pleasers. We want to help people, we don’t want anyone to feel bad.
We worry about people’s perceptions and feelings.
Birthdays are another challenge. Some people want to go all out for friends, but then it’s not fair for people who don’t get much of a celebration. Or it’s hard on the people who wish you would ignore it, like the guy who won a $450k lawsuit after an unwanted birthday party.
There’s also privacy concerns for birthdays- some people don’t want anyone to know.
And then the money concerns for managers – if your business doesn’t allow for spending on social things, the managers have to personally pay for cake or decorations. That adds up if you have to do it for everyone, which you would to be fair.
Some places do a monthly celebration for all birthdays that month, some circulate cards for all staff to sign, lots of people take their birthdays off.
One idea – let it be like kids in school – bring treats to share when it’s your own birthday.
Participant is worried about stepping up into her next role, replacing someone who is retiring and was a beloved mother-hen type.
Advice: You do not have to have her personality. Take time before making changes,
There’s an older culture working some libraries that still think we should shush people.
Many libraries aren’t quiet anymore anyway. More modern take is we should be more concerned with respecting the people around you. It’s so awkward to “shh” do we really need to do that anymore?
When thinking about how to treat employees, think, what would Elon Musk do? Then do the opposite.
Participant who was promoted to supervise his former co-workers reminds us that professionalism is the name of the game. Just be friendly.
Anyone want to do a Library Leader Happy Hour?
This group needs a new facilitator.
And Note taker.