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Friends as Colleagues

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Nothing can be done in a school district without the help from several people, especially, if what is being done, is a district wide initiative. This statement has been proven true countless times this summer as my district rolls out a new student information system. The transition has been a bumpy one, but I believe the benefits will outweigh the challenges in the long run.

While embarking on this particular new journey, the patience of all of the administrators and guidance staff was tested. They spent incalculable hours learning how to use the program, and, along the way, encountered problems that created stress for them, consequently impacting and strengthening our collegial relationships.

Reflecting on this process created a new level of awareness for me regarding the challenges of working closely with people who are also friends. As an administrator, you do not want to be accused of abusing the friendship just so you can advance an initiative. This is especially touchy when the person is someone that you directly supervise or anyone who is not at the same "level" as you. So, what do you do?

It is inevitable that, as social creatures, administrators will make friends of people they supervise, especially if they are building level administrators. The help of a friend and/or colleage is invaluable; therefore, boundaries must be developed between being a professional colleague and being a friend. Although I have spent time reflecting on this and have tried to brainstorm the ways to continue maintaining a professional relationship while being a friend, the only suggestion I could arrive at is the following: Invest quality time before and after any "favor" to show that you genuinely care about your colleagues, who may also be your friends. This, however, cannot be the only suggestion...What are you thoughts on such a difficult topic?

James Yap and Teresa Ivey ( A friend and colleague that helped me write on this difficult topic)

2 Comments

I have come across this issue in a different way. I was a teacher for 10 years in a school and then became an administrator. I didn't notice a big change in relationship with most of the staff but for some, and those most close to me, it was awkward at times. This was especially true when an issue arrived.

I tried to handle this by relying on the strength of our friendship. I would try to get them to understand that I cared for them (which I did) and that any decision that had to be made was taking that into account. By being honest and open I wanted them to respond in the same. It also was important to keep confidentiality and once the matter was dealt with to leave it in the office when we were at a conference or other function.

I'm not sure how this can help you. It is really hard to be an administrator to friends. I took an opportunity to move schools partly because of the difficulty.

The book, "First, Break All The Rules" by Buckingham and Coffman hits this topic well. Relationships are the key. I too moved from teacher to principal when I entered admin. It was the relationships and rep I had with staff that gave me the nod for the position. It's tough to respect mediocre teachers. What's that saying, friends don't let friends be mediocre? Birds of a feather fly together.

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  • DHRhoads: The book, "First, Break All The Rules" by Buckingham and read more
  • dcollins: I have come across this issue in a different way. read more

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