Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.”
~ John C. Maxwell

Friendships with your employees – when, if ever, is it appropriate? This is one of the most difficult questions for managers to answer. From an academic HR standpoint, the answer is often cut and dry – It’s never appropriate. However, in the real world, it’s often not that simple.

Relationships between between simply can’t be governed by corporate policy. Managers are not unfeeling robots. It’s only natural, after spending time, day in and day out, with people that there are going to be some people you like. In fact, to move from manager to a true leader, you need to be supportive and caring with your employees. However, does this mean it’s OK to be both buddy and boss?

In a word – no.

Although you do want to develop a trusting relationship based on mutual respect, between yourself and your employees, there still needs to be well-defined boundaries. You may be “friendly.” but you are, in the end, their boss, first and foremost. Here are four reasons why you have to move away from “buddy” if you’re the boss.

  1. Even if your actions and treatment of a person are completely unbiased, if they are your friend, others will perceive anything favorable as favoritism.

  2. Even when you’re trying to be unbiased in the treatment of your employees, you may subconsciously treat those who are your friends more favorably. It’s a natural tendency to treat people we have a personal relationship better than those we don’t.

  3. It is difficult to fully fulfill the duties of manager, when the employee in question is a friend. This includes – honest reviews, disciplinary actions, even firing the friend.

  4. You open up your company to potential lawsuits. Each time your friend receives favorable treatment (raise, promotion, etc.), even if it’s well-deserved, you risk a discrimination lawsuit from the other employees. Even if your company wins the suit, the process is often costly.

About Colleen Kettenhofen, Leadership Expert

CREDENTIALS: Colleen Kettenhofen is an international workplace and employee management expert, award-winning corporate trainer, and conference keynote speaker. A media veteran, she has appeared on numerous radio shows around the country and has written more than 40 popular articles on diverse workplace issues. Colleen has delivered more than 1,100 entertaining programs in 48 states and five countries. She is the author of 10 published audio programs and two books including SECRETS YOUR BOSS ISN’T TELLING YOU.

Colleen Kettenhofen is available for keynotes, breakout sessions, and seminars by calling (623)340-7690.