The post title is about friends becoming…more than friends (can you name the movie?), but this is NOT about that. It is about the nature of a (professional) relationship changing due to a realization of significance.
I recently accepted a position to be CIO at Menlo College in Atherton, CA. A post about that is in progress but discussions with people motivate me to write this one first.
I have always trusted, respected, and in many parts of my job admired my manager. She is a professional above reproach who still invests herself personally in her projects. She treats everyone fairly. Most importantly, she has been a mentor to me (as much as a manager can ever be a true mentor). She has helped me along from a young, inexperienced (never been a manager before) but presumably filled-with-potential subordinate to someone that has, I think, proven to be an adaptable, strong-willed leader of a group that needed change and realignment. This is no small task for me to have accomplished, and I could not have done it without her support and guidance.
However…when I applied for this new job, even though I respected my manager so much, the concept of trusting one’s direct supervisor to the extent of using her as a direct reference OR notifying her of your intent to apply for another job was foreign to me. It’s still a bit weird, to be honest, but the concept literally did not compute or exist or…anything.
It’s very difficult to explain in writing, to be honest. But I can offer my thought process as an example of how I honestly did not even conceive of this idea before. To me, my instinct is that she is my manager, and therefore I don’t do anything until offer is in hand. As a manager she will take my efforts as a sign of not being committed to my job, lack of loyalty, etc. But perhaps that is too simplistic of a view. In some cases, the layers above that basic reporting structure should be considered. That step – taking time to consider the relationship as unique and distinct from a generic manager-subordinate one – just never happened. It never entered into my thought process.
Looking back (a whopping 2 weeks ago) and having spoken to a few people at very high level executive positions at the school and university, I now realize that in some cases, such a relationship is possible. One has to be careful, and I’m not sure I’ll ever have such a relationship again. But I do feel that it is possible, and I will, in the future, consider these extra layers as I look forward in my career.