When a Friend is Promoted

Maribeth and I started our new positions on the same day.

We vaguely knew each other from our previous work in the organization. To celebrate, we decided to go to lunch.

Over salads, we began to build a friendship. Though we each got busy with work, we regularly set aside time to check-in with each other.

Our offices were adjacent, so we saw each other at the office and chatted frequently. We didn’t see each other outside of work, but we enjoyed a close working relationship.


Until our organization posted an opening for a new supervisor position in our department, until she was selected from a group of interviewees, including me and others in our department, until she became my supervisor.

On that day, there was no celebratory lunch and laughter over salads. There was only me, sulking in my office, disappointed over a lost opportunity.

It went downhill from there. I resented having her review and approve my work. I questioned her decisions, not publicly, at least, but internally. I smugly told myself that I would have been a better choice. I avoided contact with her at all cost, interacting with my previous supervisor as much as possible; using the excuse that Maribeth wasn’t available.

With the perspective of years, I wonder how her transition to leadership affected her. Was she as uncomfortable with her new role as we, her former peers, were? What effect did our attitudes have on her experience? What training and guidance did she receive? Who celebrated with her on the day of her promotion? Who did she socialize with once she became a supervisor? Did she ever regret being the one chosen?

I am certain of this – in her position, I would not have known how to relate to my former colleagues. I would have been unsure of how to give guidance and direction to friends. I would have longed for someone to help me through the awkward transition, for a handbook to refer to, a training to attend, and a circle of support around me.

Have you ever experienced the awkwardness of a friend’s promotion? What affect did it have on your relationship? Have you experienced a difficult transition to leadership in your organization? What resources helped you?

Photo credit iStock Photo

About the Author

Rebecca Robinson

Becky Robinson is a mom of three growing daughters and the Director of Social Media Marketing and Community Building for the Kevin Eikenberry Group. She blogs about leadership and social media at weavinginfluence.com where she finds everyday ways to make a difference. As a work-at-home mom, Becky is always looking for the perfect balance between pursuing career and embracing motherhood. Connect with Becky on Twitter as @beckyrbnsn.



Thank you for every other great post. The place else may just anyone get that type of info in such a perfect way of writing? I ave a presentation next week, and I am at the look for such info.


i m a student.of course it is very difficult when ur peers gets promoted.i m a student and had experience of this situation when my peers,my classmate was appointed in so many committies formed in the college.Somehow your relationship gets so longer the same.but i did not stop interacting my friend who was being promoted.instead i analyzed my weakness and worked out upon them.and finally i got my name recognized by teachers and mentors.so i think that if employees are disappointed ,there should be workshops for them so that they can be motivated,analyze their weakness and perform better which can lead to their promotion as well.


For the first 6 months I literally just shadowed the other 3 supervisors currently there and used my own common sense. It wasn’t until another supervisor transferred out and the new supervisor was discussing the courses they had been on that I became aware of the internal courses and support available to me. At the same time my line manager was promoted and the new manager, who was new to the company and had completed the above courses herself, ensured that I had all the support I needed to hand. This helped immensely and I was highly infuriated that it had taken so long before I received the support required. However the courses didn’t cover the effects on friendships (even just with colleagues) and how to handle the transition better.
The position of supervisor opened me up to Employee Relations. I managed approximately 40 members of staff in their day to day roles, maintained the rota, carried out absence return to works and appraisals, and was heavily involved in the Disciplinary and Grievance procedures, first as a note taker then as part of the decision process based on the information we were given from HR and the central ER help centre. When the HR Administrator went on Maternity Leave my line Manager suggested that I would enjoy HR thus I was seconded as a split role with half my week in HR and the other as a Supervisor.
I’m now working with another company, solely in HR, and while I’ve had to step down from a management role to do so, I’m glad I’ve had early exposure to management as this has enabled me to not only consider issues and solutions from a HR perspective; but I can also put on the “management” hat and see the implications and practicalities from that view too.

Becky Robinson

Judy, I agree. It is important to have conversations that matter at work. It is especially important for new supervisors to initiate conversations with the people they are supervising about the change in their relationships.

I am not proud of my story or how I treated my friend, but I wanted to share it because it highlights the difficulty that many people have in transitioning to leadership and the need for new leaders to find resources, support, and training.


This is a great example of how women can be each others worst enemies. Of course it is hard when another person gets the promotion and you don’t but isn’t professionalism about putting aside your negative feelings and getting on with the job?

At the end of the day we are all people, regardless of our titles at work and if we could just have conversations that matter life would be so much easier.

Becky Robinson

Thanks for sharing your story, Sam. I’m curious, how did that early leadership experience influence the path of your career later? Did you receive any encouragement or training about how to supervise others? What did you learn in that first supervisory role that you are still using in your career today?

I would love to hear more!


I was the one promoted and boy is that difficult also!
I’d worked for the company for 2 years and was only 17. My current manager had seen the potential of me filling the position of Weekend Supervisor and after interviews with the Regional HR Manager and Store Manager I got the job. This promotion was daunting already as a 17 year old, due to the average age of those now “below me” within the chain of command, nearing approximately 45 and with the attitude that they were old enough to be my mother/father so didn’t take to following my direction too well to begin with. This was exacerbated by the negativity of my then best friend who until I was promoted, I worked alongside and who I had known from school. She made it publicly clear that she resented that I’d had the “nerve” to apply for the position without telling anyone, and then resorted to suggesting I’d only got the position after “getting close” to the male manager. Needless to say this was because I was now her boss. Our friendship was non existent for the following year and a half until she left the company (we were both part time students and she had qualified in her chosen profession). It has taken until the middle of last year some 4 years since my promotion for us to regenerate a sort of association for the benefit of mutual friends. It was interesting to hear her theories when we were both away from the company although I must mention that I corrected her on her thoughts of my method of promotion (there was no relationship between the manager and I and he wasn’t even involved in the selection process).

Becky Robinson


Thanks so much for taking the time to comment on my post. I agree that the transition to supervising ones former peers is exceedingly difficult. That’s one of the reasons I am so excited about the book I link to and reference in my post. I encourage you to check it out — I think it could be useful to the new supervisors you work with.


Jay Kuhns

I have long believed it is much easier to move into a new role with a new organization than it is to be promoted to a role that supervises your former peers. When leaders are promoted in my organization, I try to share with them that they have a new group of peers to support them, but their old connections are no longer the same. It is a difficult transition, and some prefer to move back to their previous job. That’s ok. Finding our place in the world is what is most important, not chasing a new job title. Good post.


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