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:
- 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.
- Be clear when you are talking as a friend and when you are talking as your role at work.
- Be transparent with others around your friendship and recuse yourself from decisions where it may be considered biased because of your friendship.