Mark Pearl

As I’ve moved into a management role in a larger organization I’ve struggled with understanding where the boundaries are with friendships with the people I work with. Up to now in my career I’ve pretty much considered everyone a “friend” and pushed for a connection. Why this is I’m not sure, it may be due to me working in small companies or because when building software I’ve always felt part of a connected team and cared about those I work with. It’s probably enhanced by me naturally being a nurterer.

At a leadership group a while back one of the presenters made the comment that as a manager you need to be friendly but not be friends. I’ve stuggled with this advice. Yes I can see how not being “friends” makes being a leader and making the hard decisions easier—the emotional impact when you need to do something hard is muted—however it also feels like it removes the connection I want from working with others.

So the question I’ve been asking myself is can I be friends with someone who is in my reporting line, especially when my role may require me to withold information from them?

Right now I believe this is possible provided you tread carefully.

In an ideal world when the friend/work mix happens you should be careful to make it clear how the friendship will work.

I gleaned the following three tips from “How to Be Friends with Someone Who Works for You”. They suggest that:

  1. You should set expectations at the start - you may not be able to share something with them upfront, you will never lie to them but you may choose to say I cannot discuss that.
  2. Be clear when you are talking as a friend and when you are talking as your role at work.
  3. Be transparent with others around your friendship and recuse yourself from decisions where it may be considered biased because of your friendship.

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