Can a manager and employees be friends?

Photo credit: wavebreakmedia, Shutterstock
Photo credit: wavebreakmedia, Shutterstock

When it comes to our careers, we often talk about managing up (if you are an employee) or how to better support employees (if you’re a manager). Yet is it possible for managers and employees to develop friendships beyond the professional relationship in the office?

One expert says no. Alison Greene, who writes at Ask A Manager, recently explained why manager-employee friendships just don’t work:

Managers who try to be friends with their staff run into all sorts of problems. First and foremost, attempting to ignore that professional boundary doesn’t change the fact that you in are in a position of power over them. Your job is to judge their work and make decisions that could affect their livelihoods, so you are inherently on unequal footing. You need to be objective enough that you can honestly evaluate their work, give direct feedback, and even potentially fire someone one day. You might think that you can do that while still being friends, but you probably can’t, despite your best intentions – and even if you really can, others won’t believe you can, so you’ll still be dealing with a perception problem.
Read the rest of her advice on the Intuit Quickbase blog.
What do you think? Can managers and employees be friends? Share your comments below.

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    • C Russell
    • October 29, 2013

    I absolutely agree! While one would hope to establish a civil, working relationship with one’s boss, expecting friendship to last through troubled times is unrealistic. I was let go from a 5 year commitment to a community center. This was not the first time I had been laid off from this non profit. The first time was due to financial woes brought upon by the board; the second time was just a knee-jerk reaction from my boss with no reason other than “this state is at will for employment. I don’t have to give you a reason.” He subsequently regretted it as evinced by the great hard copy reference he forwarded to me. However the damage was done, both to my financial stability and to my reputation. In hindsight, I should have observed the employer/employee relationship, even if it didn’t fit in with his desire to be “friends” with all the staff. I won’t repeat that mistake.

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