Who should be the boss?


I work in a company as a graphic designer. I was hired three years ago to work alongside another designer who was already with the company for three years when I was hired. We work as equals, and we work quite closely and well together as a team. She is a really great person and a friend.

The company has been doing some reorganizing and we are steadily growing. Since we are the only two creatives in the company, our positions are not really fitting well into the organizational charts. One of us needs to become a manager of the other so that when we hire more designers the team will be a better fit within the company.

This is difficult because she is the senior person but doesn't really have the skills or the desire to take on a more managerial role. I currently do all of the strategic planning for our position, I keep her on task, manage all of our timelines and come up with most of the new initiatives.

I have expressed an interest to move up to our manager but felt that since my co-worker has been here longer that I would be stuck under a glass ceiling. My manager assured me that with the proper preparation that I would be a good candidate to move up despite seniority.

A few months after my discussion with our manager, our office was re-designed and new cubicles were ordered that are much smaller. My co-worker is distressed over where we sit and noticed that only managers get window seats and larger cubicles. Now she came to me and said she wants to ask to be my manager so she can have a better seat in the office.

She asked me if I would want to work under her and also asked if our manager was talking to me about moving up. I didn't reveal that I had already discussed this with our manager and now I don't know what to say or if I should even say anything.

If I do end up getting a promotion over her, how will it look that I wasn't honest about my ambition for the position? How should I handle this?

Gina, Canada

Charles Helliwell's Answer:

Honesty is the best policy all round, in this instance. You'll have to come clean with your colleague and tell her where you stand. However, there's an interesting angle to your story, because you are both friends and work well with each other. So, why don't you both see whether or not you can exercise the judgement of Solomon on this and share the responsibilities of the creative role?

You have shown, for example, that your skills lie in the area of organisation and planning. Is your colleague perhaps more of a creative influence on the partnership? Many a successful advertising and marketing agency has been built around the partnership of two individuals whose responsibilities are shared and whose skills are complimentary.

Perhaps one of the ways that you can demonstrate this partnership is in the allocation of the offices. Your colleague wants to have one of the offices with a window seat, which is being earmarked for managers in the business.

So why don't you compromise with her that not only will you share responsibilities, but she can also have the office with a window seat? In exchange, you will be given the title and responsibility of manager of the group.

I'd say that was a pretty fair bargain, in that you both get much of what you're looking for, whilst continuing to work together in a collaborative fashion and remaining as friends.

But beware in the longer term, because these sorts of compromises are only a short-term fix. Over time, your managerial responsibilities will eventually lead to a different working and personal relationship with your friend and colleague. That's the nature of business, I'm afraid. The judgement of Solomon eventually leads to one party coming out ahead of the other.


About our Expert

Charles Helliwell
Charles Helliwell

For almost 20 years, Charles Helliwell has been enjoying a lifestyle and making a living as a behavioural and relationship mentor specialising in the personal and professional development of individuals and teams in the workplace.

Older Comments

I would be worried about someone applying for a job purely to get a window seat. There are other responsibilities that go with being a manager, and it is likely that the creative element that she likes will be reduced and supervising other creative staff will become her bread and butter. Strategy and planning are managerial tasks, so the shift for that person would not be too great. But to appoint someone because they want a particular seat would be to appoint the wrong person to the job. In such an event, both the employer and the employee will lose.

Your friend needs to seriously consider whether she wishes to give up some (or possibly all) of her creative tasks to take on the role of manager of others. Not having a window seat is not the end of the world. Being appointed to a role that is not what she expects and is not suited to her skill set would cause her distress and problems that might result in her having to leave the firm. Becoming a manager does not mean you continue to do the same things as you did before. Instead of being a technical person, you are a manager of other technical staff. If the people management skills are not there, the whole department suffers. And if she does not like administration, she will hate management because there is an awful lot more paperwork that goes with the role.

She really needs to reconsider this and decide whether her job is worth losing for the sake of a window seat. If she is serious about the role, that is different, but if she really is only after a window seat, she needs to realise that there are greater responsibilities with a management role and she might not be ready to accept them.

Cheryl-Anne London

condesnsed version: go for the managers job, let the halfwit have the window.

Arthur Battram slough of despond

once the novelty and the panache of a 'window'seat' wears off, then what? The window-seat thing is but a pointer to one's values and priorities. Misguided values and priorities just about always lead to derailment and conflict in some way, shape or form. Perhaps share and collaborate, and Charlies suggets, and bide your time. Hopefully, the cream will rise to the top.

peter vajda atlanta, ga

Job-share, or offer yourselves together to the organisation as a package. If you're a creative team, you should be able to demonstrate a better solutions, like overriding the office layout and having one large joint space. The people who plan or redesign offices rarely work in them, so they don't know best. Otherwise, one has the 'better' office in the mornings, the other in the afternoons, or on alternate days. That way, you'll begin to see how silly it is, and maybe even shame your colleagues into adopting more adult views.

John Starbuck Yorkshire, UK

I see a problem child in the future for this potential manager. Her colleague is more focused on entitlement and having a window seat than earning the job. In the world of business, the people you work with are not your friends. The writer should be honest with her co-worker and be prepared for the adversary effects. If she is management material, she'll get through the BS of workplace politics.