Being a boss can be tough. Amongst other management responsibilities, bosses are tasked with managing a diverse group of people with different personalities and making certain that everyone “rows in the same direction” and works as a team. And if that isn’t tough enough, bosses are often called upon to make some tough decisions too. Work assignments, terminations, promotions and advancements, and a myriad of other human resources challenges come with the position as well.
It’s tough enough to be the boss but if you’re a friend with your subordinates it can be almost impossible. I’m not saying that you should be feared, avoided or downright disliked but I am saying that you must carefully straddle the line between being a boss and being a friend. It’s not a matter of being liked; it’s a matter of being respected, appreciated and admired.
Here’s why being a good boss and a friend presents problems:
1. Sometimes you might have to make a decision that will be detrimental to your friend/subordinate. You know that it will hurt them emotionally or financially and it comes down to whether or not you make that tough decision or if you cobble together another solution that might not work as well but will eliminate putting your friend/subordinate into a tough spot.
2. People are very observant. Do you run the risk of losing the respect and admiration of other employees because they see that your relationship with their co-worker (your friend) colors your decisions and how you interact with the rest of the employees?
3. Can your friend/subordinate ever give you a case of TMI (too much information) and put you in a compromised position? A friend/subordinate can give you personal information that can drive how you run the company.
One of the only ways to eliminate these situations is to maintain a professional relationship with employees.
• “Do it for me because we are friends” can lead only to disappointment and can rock the friendship as well as undermine the business relationship too.
• Most of the time true friends are equals without any agendas. Needless to say there are agendas at work and people are not equal hence friendship with a subordinate is doomed right from the very beginning.
• Friends are not demanding of each other and don’t measure each other on the criteria used in evaluating success in the workplace (i.e. productivity, critical thinking, sales results, etc.).
Bosses need to help develop and care about their employees but they can’t allow caring or friendship to cloud their decision-making. It’s a fallacy to think that you can be both effectively!