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

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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.