The Challenge Of Being Your Friend's Boss

I began working at Urban Outfitters during my first year at UCLA and have not stopped working there since. It has become a defining feature of mine, a wifi spot on my phone and one of only three named locations on my find my friends app. In short, I am always there. That being said, I have made a lot of close connections with my coworkers which have moved beyond the “Employees Only” sign hung on the break room door. These relationships with my coworkers have made folding shirts fun. However, friendships with coworkers can always become complicated when one friend has to tell the other what to do. I began to learn exactly what this meant when, just this year, I was promoted and given the role of an authority figure in a place where I was maybe too comfortable.

When I applied for the new position, I did so because I wanted the experience and the extra hours. However, I quickly began to realize that I would experience more when my manager asked me if she thought being friends with everyone would make my new job harder. When she asked, I was caught off guard. I had never once saw myself as an authority figure. To think I would have some sort of power was absurd to me. I would be telling my friends, many of whom are older than me, how to do their job. I reassured her that it would not be a problem, but that it could actually help me since I was so comfortable with them and therefore was more willing to ask things of them. It was not long before I realized the truth behind her question.

I never saw any of my friends being bad at their jobs and, for the most part, they are not. But, that is mostly because they were always doing what an authority figure told them to do. Now, I was that authority figure and, as I let my friends dictate their own work, I began to realize how important my title really was. There were things left undone, problems not being resolved and a casual tone being set that did not belong in the workplace. At first, I thought it was their fault and that, before I took on this new role, I was just blind to how unproductive my friends really were. However, I quickly began to realize that the problem was not them, but me. The only thing that changed was the person telling them what to do and I was not doing my job by having the same relationship I had with them before. I was now the person that they looked to for answers and, afraid that it might change our relationship, I was not giving any to them. Little did I know, I was actually hurting our relationship by doing that. 

My friends were lost and looking for me to do my job, even if that meant me telling them what to do. Rather than acting as a friend like I thought I was doing, I was acting as a hindrance. This became clear to me when one of my friends actually admitted to needing my help. She was much newer to the store and was still learning, so it was not unexpected that she made a small mistake. However, this mistake caused a customer to become agitated. As the customer’s face grew more and more red, the line began to grow and my friend began to feel the pressure that I am sure everyone in retail has felt at some point. At this time I was placed in charge, so it was my responsibility to take control of the situation. I taught her how to fix her mistake and how to avoid doing it in the future. I also reassured the customer that everything was fixed, which was easy as she saw me as a capable authority figure, something I had never been seen as before especially at 19 years old. It was a good feeling and it became all the greater when my friend expressed how grateful she was that I was there. It made me realize that I could still be there for my friends, just in a different way. So, I decided to embrace my job, the good and the bad, because it was a necessary job for someone to have and my friends saw that.

With my new job came a lot of changes, and although I did not embrace them at first, I am happy to do so now. The friendships I have at work are important to me. They give me a chance to have a life outside of the “college bubble” and away from the competitive environment of UCLA. I get to know people who took different paths, who are at different points in their lives, who can teach me things that my other friends cannot, have more years on me and are exploring parts of the world that, while taking the university route, I cannot quite reach yet. I love my job and it is not because I have a passion for retail, but because of the people I work with.