FAQ: Should a Boss Be Friends With Their Employees?

When people trust and respect each other, just as in any healthy relationship, employee/manager friendships can build growth, enhance engagement, and make the workplace more productive.

If your job is a typical 9 to 5, then you’ll spend about eight hours a day, five days a week, for about 40 years, with the various people you work with. That equates to almost 90,000 hours total. So, a very long time.

But there is a flip side to this. In-depth relationships can also lead to conflict, especially for those of us who work in hierarchical environments. Whether or not the team members are your friends, once you are promoted to a leadership position, you will unavoidably need to make difficult decisions and evaluate them fairly. If you are a new manager making the switch from the position of “work friend” to the position of “boss,” this presents a significant challenge. The dynamic of a friendship shifts from one of equals to one of meritocracy when one person advances.

Today, managing the boss-friend relationship is even more challenging than it was 15 years ago. Prior to the invention of the iPhone and social media, people generally knew much less about one another’s personal lives and worked together mostly in person during office hours. With the advent of new technologies and social media, we are now accessible 24/7. Social protocol has significantly changed: 32% of employees friend their boss on Facebook, 19% of them follow each other on Instagram, and 7% of them use Snapchat. 68 percent of employees have their manager’s cell phone number, 60 percent have met their significant other, 24 percent have been to their manager’s home, and 34 percent have asked their manager for advice on personal matters.

Our most recent study sought to determine the most effective method to handle your relationship with friends at work when you become their boss due to the rise in workplace friendships and everyone knowing perhaps a little too much about each other. Between January and August 2020, we conducted a survey of 200 male and 200 female newly promoted, first-time managers in 17 different countries, asking them, among other things:

Worryingly, we discovered that more than 90% of these new managers struggled to distinguish between their roles as a friend and a boss, and that more than 70% of them have lost friendships as a result of their new roles. This didn’t, however, address our question about how to effectively manage a former friend.

We gathered information from their responses and conducted follow-up interviews to delve deeper into this question. More information about their experiences would help us confirm our findings. Our analysis of their responses led us to identify five strategies for striking the right balance between being a friend and a boss in the “information age.” ”.

Should a boss be friends with employees

What are the pros of supervisors being friends with their employees?

The following are some benefits of managers being friends with their staff:

You can better understand one anothers needs

Friendships between managers and employees help them better comprehend each other’s needs. For instance, managers who are close to their staff members can provide more immediate support because they are aware of when the staff may require it. In contrast to a workplace where the manager has no personal relationships with their employees, this can result in higher productivity.

You can develop more mutual respect and compassion

A supervisor and employee who become friends may grow to have a great deal of respect and empathy for one another. An employee can benefit from this friendship by understanding the decisions a supervisor makes in relation to work. A manager can use this friendship to assess the working conditions for his or her employees and make sure they’re fair and reasonable.

Work may become more enjoyable

Even if you enjoy your work, there might be times when things are dull or slow. Working with friends can significantly increase your enjoyment of your job. You probably enjoy working with your team and look forward to going to work each day.

Should a boss be friends with their employees?

Bosses, supervisors, and managers are allowed to be friends with their staff as long as it doesn’t interfere with work-related activities. Their friendship may exist outside of the workplace, but it won’t have an impact on either person’s reputation or productivity. Additionally, it shouldn’t change the power dynamics between people because the boss still has more influence and authority at work.

What are the cons of supervisors being friends with their employees?

The following are some potential negative effects of managers being close friends with their staff:

Other employees may become resentful

If other workers discover their manager is friends with another worker, they might feel betrayed. Regardless of whether or not their employees interact with one another outside of the workplace, a manager can reduce this risk by being cordial with all of their staff. By anticipating that their supervisor will treat them similarly to how other employees are treated, an employee can also help to manage this risk.

Problems in your personal relationship may translate to the work environment

Its not uncommon for disagreements to arise in friendships. Conflict between a worker and their manager in their personal lives may spill over to the workplace and reduce productivity. By agreeing to separate their personal and professional lives, the two people can deal with this potential disadvantage.

The supervisor may unintentionally show favoritism

It is possible for managers who are close friends with their staff to unintentionally favor one employee over another. Because of their personal relationship, a manager might be more forgiving with an employee’s performance evaluation. For the employee, this may make it difficult to enhance their performance and achieve their professional goals. Because of their casual relationship outside of work, a supervisor might overlook an employee’s mistakes and be less willing to correct them. Both parties can avoid this by promising to produce high-quality work and objectively evaluating its quality.

Should there be rules for managers and employees who are friends?

Creating guidelines for manager and employee friendships can be beneficial. Although there may not be formal guidelines on this topic at work, a manager and an employee can establish their own guidelines to make sure they take the interests of the company into consideration. For instance, one requirement might be that they refrain from disclosing too much personal information that could harm their careers.

What are tips for being friends as supervisors and employees?

Here are some useful suggestions you can use if you’re a part of a friendship between a supervisor and an employee:

Allow the friendship to form naturally

It’s best to let this type of friendship develop naturally. By not expecting favors or special treatment, the friendship can develop more naturally. If you’re an employee, try first to get along with your boss by talking about work-related matters. Later, you can move on to talking about shared hobbies and interests. You might spend time together outside of work and exchange personal stories as you get to know one another better. It’s crucial to adhere to this progression so that you can uphold boundaries and maintain the integrity of your workplace.

Keep your friendship relatively private

It’s best to keep a supervisor-employee friendship private. You can try to keep it fairly private even though you don’t have to keep it a secret. For instance, even if your manager or an employee sends you an online friend request, you might decide not to post a lot of pictures of the two of you together outside of work.

Be inclusive

If you’re a part of a friendship between a supervisor and an employee, you should be inclusive. You can communicate and interact with all of your coworkers and other supervisors on an equal basis as an employee. As a manager, you can plan team-building exercises and treat every worker fairly.

Communicate openly

Maintaining open communication is one of the best ways to manage a supervisor-employee relationship. Establish ground rules that you both agree on, and encourage each other to voice any issues that may come up. Communication is also advantageous as roles shift and one of you receives a promotion that entails more powerful duties.

Talk about work positively

If you spend a lot of time at the office, work is probably a big part of your life. It’s only natural to want to discuss it or bring it up when you’re not at work. Make sure to only bring up the positive aspects of your job when speaking with your boss or an employee away from the workplace. Be sure to act professionally if you have a genuine concern you’d like to discuss in the office.


Are bosses allowed to be friends with employees?

A friendship, which could be thought of as a two-way street, is not what a manager has with an employee. Because of this, managing people frequently seems like a lonely, one-way, pay-it-forward street.

Should bosses socialize with employees?

Managers can and should be friendly with their employees. They ought to engage in conversation and get to know the others on their team. To ensure that the relationship remains professional, they must also establish boundaries and take the appropriate actions.

Should bosses have a friendly relationship with their employees?

Being overly cordial can compromise your authority; always keep in mind who’s in charge. According to Devora Zack, CEO of Only Connect Consulting, Inc., “trying to be friends with your employees makes providing feedback and performance appraisals difficult and puts you at risk for claims of favoritism.”

Is it good to be friends with your boss?

Your personal and professional lives become entwined if you become close with your boss. Going to the occasional happy hour with your boss is a great idea. Even better, inform your manager of any personal matters that might have an impact on your work.

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