Manager and friend – is this a good idea?
This is a question that we often get asked on our management courses. We also come across this when dealing with HR issues when the line between manager and friend has become blurred. It is also a question that can divide opinion and cause many a debate.
My answer is always the same. I believe that managers can also be friends with those that report in to them; as long as both know where the line is. It is also crucial that both people are mature enough to be able to separate work and friendship. For example, if people disagree at work, or perhaps even the manager has to reprimand the team member, are they able to remember that it is about work, and the friendship is not affected. Equally, and more importantly to the business, if they fall out outside of work are they able to remain professional at work?
How do I know this? Is it my 20 years in HR? Partly, but also the fact that I have now been working with my best friend for nearly 9 years and yes, I am her manager. I am very glad to say we have not needed to test out what happens if we fall out as friends as we never do, but we definitely disagree at work! By this I mean we have different ways of working, different opinions at times as to the best way forward – and I wouldn’t have it any other way as it makes the business stronger.
I have though seen it in client businesses where this has not worked, and guidance must be issued as to how to behave and expectations. Sometimes the answer, where possible, is to move people to separate teams but this should only be in extreme circumstances.
Another dimension to this is when people move from being someone’s colleague to be their team leader / manager. This can be very tricky, and people need support and advice on how to make this transition run smoothly. This is something that we cover on our courses, specifically around friend to manager.