Balancing leadership and friendship can be a challenge.
The Manager-Employee Relationship
While the manager-employee relationship isn’t a friendship, it can certainly be friendly. In fact, building a relationship with your team is a good way to start building momentum. With the integration of work and life in recent years, we know that everyone brings a little bit of home to work, and vice versa. It's a good idea to ask employees about their hobbies and interests and get to know them in a personal sense.
The Friend Boss
The "friend boss" can be a minefield. It sounds great to earn the respect and trust of your team by being nice and participating in after-work social activities, letting your guard down, and being, well.. friends. However, if you've ever had to give a friend bad news, or tell a friend they were not living up to expectations, you. Being too friendly with employees can create issues with your judgment. You're less likely to see mistakes or take an issue seriously because you want to maintain a friendship.
Why Can't We Be Friends
Others on the team can view this type of relationship as favoritism, and end up resenting you and their peer, with whom you are friends. Even more the employee may feel so comfortable with the friendship, that they let things slide in their own performance, which can damage their career path in the organization. If they take for granted that you will overlook their missteps, they may allow more to creep in, and suddenly, that employee's performance is viewed by others as sub-par. All of these issues could even culminate in the employee losing their job, due to poor performance, and your inability to course-correct before it was too late.
Friendliness Is Beneficial But...
So while friendliness is beneficial and encouraged, close friendships should be avoided for the sake of the employee, the company, and you. The mutual respect, support, and shared success between a good manager and a high-performing employee are powerful motivators for engagement.
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