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When your buddy becomes your boss

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Ann Humphries

(CNN) -- That co-worker you showed around the place when she joined the company -- the one who has asked you how to do everything from expense vouchers to travel reservations -- just got promoted.

Over you.

This is someone you'd thought of as a friend, even an ally. Now, she's your boss -- and she's loving it.

graphic Have you found yourself working for a friend?

Yes. It worked out OK.
Yes. It didn't work out too well.
No. Hasn't happened to me.
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CNN: We wanted to find out what the dynamics are in a case like this. So -- since she's already president of ETICON and can't get bumped up over us -- we asked business-etiquette specialist Ann Humphries what the deal is.

Ann Humphries: Well, let me give you a late April fool's version of this first -- it makes the converse pretty clear. If you're the one lucky enough to be promoted over your friends, you should make sure that "boss" and "bossy" are synonymous: Demand things, take credit for everything, dismiss all ideas and suggestions, delay praise and be defensive if something doesn't work.

Now while this is of course entirely the wrong way to go about it if you're pushed upstairs, you may have seen this kind of thing happen.

A few of these folks will always be with us. It's probably better to focus on your own position if you're the person passed over in favor of this peer and maybe friend.

•  Remember that your being passed over this time doesn't mean the co-worker who got the promotion will work out. You can position yourself to be ready for the next chance.

•  Don't pout or brood or sandbag this person.

•  Be reasonably cooperative but you don't have to hide valid criticism. Don't be obsequious, don't be overly critical -- you want to land right in the middle.

•  Allow some time for the transition. Your associate may need time to get her legs in the new job.

•  Respect sells. It's a great motivator and an equalizer. Show your respect, at least for the position if not for the co-worker who's been put into it.

graphic OK, your turn. Your buddy's been promoted, right? You're still doing valet parking and it's his roadster you're trying not to swipe as you wheel around the corner? Tell all. Use our handy submission form to let us know about issues you'd like to see addressed here in Corporate Class. And thanks.

•  You may find a place for yourself on your friend's new team as a staffer "on the floor" -- someone whose eyes and ears remain in place among co-workers after she's been promoted. This may help you find a role, and a valuable one -- that of an adviser -- after the promotion.

•  Sometimes you may have to have a frank discussion with the person who's been promoted. If there are problems, go in -- both as friend and co-worker (and now subordinate) -- and go over who you are, what you can live with, what you can't. Be honest, be friendly.

But ultimately, the real key here is you need to be sure you don't over-invest in your work -- don't set yourself up by giving "111 percent"; do the "110 percent" everyone is so fond of talking about. Maintain a little privacy in a crowded work environment.

Don't try to please everyone, not even your friend who may have been promoted. You're a team player, you're collegial, you're a friend. You're also a staffer in your own right.

Ann Humphries, founder and president of ETICON, Inc. and a Certified Professional Consultant to Management, includes several Fortune 500 companies among her clients. She's been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Fortune and Money, and on CNN, CBS and Lifetime TV. You can contact her at


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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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