Independent Thinking Blog

Your Employees Are Not Your Friends

Years ago, my friend Ellen* confided in me that she wasn’t sure whether to accept a promotion because it would put her in the role of supervising her friends. My question to her: If you don’t take it, will one of your colleagues snag the job?

She accepted the position.

What Ellen understood was that her work relationships were going to change.

You blur the lines between boss and friend at everyone’s peril.

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen colleagues make in the workplace is to blur the lines between boss and friend. Trying so hard to be liked that they can’t hold people to deadlines, critique poor or incomplete work, or effectively stop people from undermining their authority in often subtle but always troubling ways.

Your employees are not your friends:

  • If you’re the boss, people are dependent on you for their livelihood. That’s a power relationship, not a friendship.
  • If you’re a manager, people rely on you to guide them, teach them, and shield them from the corporate winds swirling above their pay grades. That’s a subordinate (and sometimes mentoring) relationship, not a friendship.

I read recently that Tiger Woods is upset that his former swing coach has written a new book that talks about their relationship. Woods reportedly said, in part, that he was disappointed because it was someone he “trusted as a friend.” You don’t pay your friends.

Have you seen the lines blur in the workplace? Have you blurred them? What were the consequences?

*Not her real name.

Photo by Jenny Downing (Flickr).

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