can a manager and employees be friends?

A reader writes: 

With my new job of four months, I’ve made the crossover from staff to management; I now manage a team of seven.

For the first time ever, people aren’t trying to reach out and be social with me and I can’t decide if they don’t like me or if it’s part of being in management. The staff all get along; they go out to lunch together, go to happy hour after work, go on breaks together, even do a few things outside of work, but no one has invited me to do any of it.  Is this just my new reality and I can only be friends with other managers now?  Nobody ever told me any of this, so maybe it really is just me?

It’s not you; it’s your position.

You can’t be friends with the people you manage – at least not in the true sense of the word. You can have warm, friendly relationships with them, but you cannot be friends with them the way you could if you weren’t their manager.

This is part of the package that comes with management, and the sooner that you accept it, the sooner you’ll be a more effective manager. Managers who try to be friends with their staff run into all sorts of problems. First and foremost, attempting to ignore that professional boundary doesn’t change the fact that you in are in a position of power of them. Your job is to judge their work and make decisions that could affect their livelihoods, so you areinherently on unequal footing. You need to be objective enough that you can honestly evaluate their work, give direct feedback, and even potentially fire someone one day. You might think that you can do that while still being friends, but you probably can’t, despite your best intentions – and even if you really can, others won’t believe you can, so you’ll still be dealing with a perception problem.

What’s more, it’s no fun to be on your employees’ side of that equation.  Think about it from their perspective: Their job is at least partially to satisfy your expectations, anticipate what you want from them, and at times subvert what they want in favor of what you want. That’s usually not a problem in a manager-employee relationship, but it doesn’t make for a healthy friendship. And who wants to receive critical work-related feedback from someone who last night they were having drinks with and dishing about their relationship troubles?

Part of being a manager is understanding where and how to draw professional boundaries, and how to be friendly without crossing those lines – and not taking it personally if you’re not invited to group happy hours and so forth. To be clear, you can and should care about your employees as people, want the best for them, and develop warm and supportive relationships, but you also need to preserve the boundaries that make it possible for you to be effective at your job and doesn’t lead you or them into seeing the relationship as something it can’t be as long as you’re in a position of such authority over them.

{ 77 comments… read them below }

  1. MR*

    About the only time I’ve ever ‘hung out’ with either a manager or a subordinate is in the moving process. I can’t explain how or why it has happened, but I’ve been helped by a former manager in moving across town, and I’ve helped a different manager of mine move across town.

    Nothing was inherently weird about it, and nothing changed about the relationships going forward from those events.

    1. fposte*

      I’ve actually had pretty close relationships with supervisors and reports, but I think there are factors that made it more plausible: firstly, this is academics, where everything gets weird, and secondly, there’s been only a single report in a small unit, so it’s not like the boss is always tagging along with the staff or singling anybody out among them. It’s kind of an artifact of unit solidarity.

        1. SevenSixOne*

          I usually avoid getting too close to work people because inevitably there will be a situation where one of you has to make an impossible choice because the right thing to do as a colleague contradicts the right thing to do as a friend.

        2. Vicki*

          Of course, the flip side of that is that part of the reason they “disappear” is that you never got close to them outside of work…

          My hubs has friends he met through work 40 years ago. I have friends from work 25 years ago.

          One of those was also (for a brief time) my manager.

          1. Jen in RO*

            I agree with Vicki. My boyfriend has friends he met through work 20 years ago, we go on holidays together and they keep bumping into each other every couple of years in a professional capacity. One of these friends even managed my boyfriend recently, and as far as I could tell there were no issues (maybe because they are mature in both years and mentality).

            On my part, I’m surprised that I managed to keep in touch with my friends from my previous job. It’s only been 2 months, but I hope we’ll keep seeing each other as time goes by!

        3. Felicia*

          My best friend for the past 5 years who is as close as a sister is a former co worker of mine . I think co worker friendships are very possible. Between manager and subordinate, at least while you work together, is much less likely to work out. Maybe if you meet again after you no longer work together when it’s not an unequal balance of power…maybe.

          1. S from CO*

            I met my best friend (she is like a sister) at work in 1992. We worked in different departments at a bank.

  2. Rich*

    Like Alison said, it’s your position. And honestly, keep it the way you’ve described as best you can. I’ve worked in a few positions where I have been in charge of my friends and their work; I was fortunate enough to have had friends who understood that my job would be to tell them things they didn’t want to hear and distinguish between the two “mes,” but most people cannot handle that. At the same time, I’ve seen managers try to be friends with their subordinates and watched the downward spiral into disaster.

    A warm relationship, as Alison puts it, is fine. I believe the most effective managers are the ones with subordinates who are comfortable and trusting enough to confide in “the boss.” Lunch, or even a drink after a particularly difficult project is totally fine because it shows your human side, but be sure you’re not devoting more time to building friendships instead of being a manager.

  3. Anna*

    I wonder how this works when you’re on a management team with YOUR boss. So, for instance, I am on the management team (although technically I don’t manage anyone, it’s just the nature of the position I’m in). The team is very friendly with each other and we go out for happy hour and so on. Is that weird, especially when the boss boss is out with us?

    1. Rich*

      It should be fine as long as nobody (especially you and the boss boss) conduct themselves appropriately. Just be mindful that what gets seen by coworkers outside the office will get talked about inside the office.

      1. RJ*

        I know it’s a typo, but I love the idea that as long as nobody behaves appropriately, everything will be fine!

  4. fposte*

    In this particular situation, you’ve got two specific obstacles: a manager can’t move in a friends pack with her staff and go everywhere they go socially, but you really can’t single staffers out to be friends with either. So there’s no configuration that’s unproblematic. And they are doubtless considerably more aware of this than you are, so they’re not going to initiate a friendship either.

    You can still go out to lunch together now and then (especially if you’ll treat), but it’s really not the place to find your social circle.

  5. Lily in NYC*

    I’m an executive assistant and have been at my job for 10 years. I am best friends with a coworker who started 8 years ago. Just a few months ago, he got promoted and is now my boss. It has not changed our friendship one bit. We still tease each other and make gross jokes and go out for drinks just like we always did. The reason it works is that we are both mature (well, except for our stupid jokes) and he knows he can trust me to do my job well and that I would never take advantage of our friendship. And he knows he can confide in me about work issues and that I will never repeat what he says. It is working out great. I really think it depends on the culture of the place and the actual people.

    1. tesyaa*

      I think your situation is more the exception than the rule. I was once truly friendly with my boss and it ended up badly. We were able to remain friends, but I ended up leaving the company under less than ideal circumstances – long story – and I think things would have been different had we not had the social relationship. Yes, it would have been better for me had we not been friends.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Agreed it’s the exception to the rule. And one of the trickiest parts of this is that everyone thinks it’s working out fine … until the moment when it’s not fine. (Not saying that will happen with you, Lily! Of course there are occasions where it does stay fine.)

        1. KarenT*

          one of the trickiest parts of this is that everyone thinks it’s working out fine … until the moment when it’s not fine

          This. It’s fine until it’s not fine. I’ve seen this play out so many times. You are BFFs with your boss until she has to fire you/reprimand you/you resign, etc. Also not saying it will be the case for Lily, but I’ve seen it over and over.

          1. Shane Watson*

            I’ve been there. Long time ago, one of my closest friends at work was promoted to General Manager. The board of directors was aware of the friendship and expressed great concern over my friend’s ability to lead me because of our friendship. When the company’s budget became strained, my friend made a decision to cut my pay. It put a serious strain on our friendship, especially since it happened a few weeks before the birth of my first son.

            In short, you can’t be friends with those you lead because it will instantly bring your leadership abilities under scrutiny and make those tough decisions infinitely more difficult.

        2. Lily in NYC*

          I am not even a tiny bit worried. We are both very honest with each other and good communicators. Actually, I am worried about one thing – I’m pretty sure he will be quitting soon and I’m going to be bereft without him.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        My best friend became my boss (I started working where she left and then our boss left and she stepped in). Things didn’t go well for me at that time, and I was fired. It ruined our relationship. We’re still friends, but it’s more like Facebook friends now and we don’t see each other nearly as much as we once did, even though we live in the same city.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          I’m sorry to hear that, Elizabeth. I always notice your comments here because you are thoughtful and insightful.

    2. some1*

      Lily, does your boss supervise anyone else?

      At a former job, my sup retired and my new-sup was promoted from another department. She was already super close friends with one of my team members. They started going out to lunch together and my team member got blatant favoritism from the new boss (this isn’t just sour grapes, when my boss’s boss heard what was happening the favoritism stopped).

      Now, the thing is I didn’t care for my team member *or* my boss very much, and would not have wanted to go to lunch with either of them, but it was about the way it looked. I know for a fact that neither one saw a problem with going to lunch together at the exclusion of everyone else.

      Just a thought that while everything is going gangbusters for you and your boss with the new arrangement, your co-workers could very well feel differently (and wouldn’t necessarily feel comfortable saying so).

      1. KarenT*

        Another important point–just because it’s working out for you and your boss does not mean it’s working out for those around you.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          Why does everyone have to assume the worst? It’s like you want things to work out badly for us. He manages a bunch of people and is beloved by everyone. He’s been promoted 4 times in 8 years. He is probably one of the most popular people in our 400-person company because he is genial and a superstar worker.

          1. Rana*

            I don’t know that people are assuming the worst, but cautioning you that in the majority of cases, things can – and do – go wrong.

            I think you’re not quite getting how very unusual your relationship is – either you and your friend have been astonishingly lucky in how things have worked out, or there’s some self-delusion going on.

            (I’m not saying you are deluding yourself, just that your situation is so far out of the norm that it’s a more reasonable interpretation than taking you at your word, annoying though that may be.)

      2. Lily in NYC*

        some1, he manages quite a few people and everyone vies to be on his team because they want him for their boss. I’m his assistant so there’s a very different dynamic with us and no one cares that we are friends because I don’t get special treatment nor am I competing with these people for raises, promotions. We have a very collegial division and everyone gets along very well and we are not the only close friendship in the group.

        We never go to lunch together – people actually have time to leave the office and eat? That would be a pipe dream here.

  6. Anon for this one*

    I’m not going to say it’s completely impossible — but it really is one in a million. My previous boss is someone I consider a close friend, and one who, when he was my boss, was someone who would occasionally treat me the way a friend would rather than how the company might have strictly wanted (for example, giving me advance information that wasn’t public knowledge). But he was also willing to sit down and give me negative feedback if I deserved it.

    I’ve thought that because he managed to find that delicate balance with me, that I might be able to do it with my own employees (not forcing it, of course; simply letting a friendship develop naturally if the personalities were right). But I’ve recently discovered just how damn near impossible it is. I befriended one of my employees, and it really was hard to a) give her honest feedback and b) be absolutely scrupulous about not giving her special treatment in any way just because we happened to be simpatico. Fortunately, I changed teams, and now we can be friends with neither the difficulty of balancing two sometimes-conflicting relationships, nor the *perception* of favoritism, which can be just as important as the reality.

    So, yeah, to the OP — don’t take it personally. Your former peers are simply acknowledging the nature of the new relationship.

  7. Andrew*

    I’m left wondering if this person ever worked under someone before. Did the poster want to be friends with previous managers? Most employees would find it odd to be close friends with someone in charge. Examining it from the other side of the equation might be helpful in cases like this.

    1. The IT Manager*

      +1 I find this question so odd. I started my career in the military and one thing they did very good is make it clear that subordinates and supervisors shouldn’t be friends.

      As Alison say you can (and probably should) be friendly. And the miltary adds caring for the welfare of ones subordinates more than the commercial world does but the relationship should not be a friendship for all the reason Alison mentioned and more.

    2. OP*

      I agree, I voiced this with someone else and they asked me the same question: Did you ever ask your previous bosses out to lunch or happy hour? No. It was just such a change in social situation that it took me by surprise but I am adapting.

  8. Rachel*

    I think it’s important that people have workplace buddies. However, it is not appropriate to be friends with your subordinates. Focus instead on building friendships with other people at your level (other managers).

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      I agree with you. Though as you rise in the company, your peer group shrinks. It can get increasingly difficult to find folks with shared interests, especially if they are only a few others at your level.

  9. party pooper*

    is it also fair to say that being buddies with some employees but not others could result in biases? I tried to maintain a professional relationship with my last manager who liked to drink and party with his staff, and may have favored those he partied with over those who preferred to keep their distance. I went to team bonding events, but the idea of going to parties at his place made me super uncomfortable.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Yeah, I think that’s fair. It’s one reason why being buddies with your subordinates is not a good idea. Even if the manager doesn’t mean to favor them, he/she can still develop a bias. To do it deliberately is really unprofessional.

  10. Jo*

    Hmm, another interesting one. I think you get grades of friendship, and you can be what I call “work friends” with bosses or managees -that is to say the odd post-work drink, but knowing that there is a unspoken boundary. I invited colleagues including my manager and a line report to my wedding, and go for drinks or lunch with members of my team, but I’m never 100% relaxed. I’m quite sure they are the same! But I would still describe them as friends (frelleagues is my fave term!) albeit not my closest friend level.

  11. Anonymous*

    Aristotle (remember him?) identified 3 types of friendships:

    1. utility
    2. pleasure
    3. values/good

    I can’t see where the manager/employee relationship would fit in any of these groups. Values? I do recall being interviewed by the dept manager who said she and the director shares the same value, i.e., perfection or as close to it as one can get. Friends?

    1. Nichole*

      Utility maybe? It makes things easier across the board to get along with the people you work with, and (for me at least) it’s a lot easier to give and take criticism when you know that you mutually like and respect one another. The trouble is that it blurs boundaries that impact other areas of your work, like appearance of impropriety and keeping secrets from your friendployee.

  12. The IT Manager*

    Just want to say that I think its fine for the boss to go out to lunch with subordinates a few times a month as a team building thing but certainly not everyday. I also think going out for drinks after work for a couple of hours can also be good team building occasionally. These invites should not be for very long, to get drunk, or very frequent. IMO (which some will disagree with I am sure), the drinks need to be freqeunt than the lunchs because everyone has to eat but some people do not like to drink or go to bars or have to go home after work so that can leave some people out. When doing this you need to invite the whole team, though, and not just some people.

    But your question hints at something else. While as a manager you should not be friends with your subordinates, there should not no problem being friends with your peers and fellow managers, but maybe if you’re actually seeking friendship you should look outside of the office. (I acknowledge know how hard it is to find new friends once you’re out of school.)

      1. Jen*

        I agree with everything you said. We all have a large work cafeteria and my boss very frequently sits at the table and to be honest, it annoys the crap out of me. Every once in a while for team building is fine but not the majority of every week. Every lunch turns into a business meeting and sometimes I just need a break from being around him. He has a big personality that I can handle in small doses but sometimes I need an hour to not be around him. Also, his whole world is work so sometimes I really wish he would make friends outside of the office – take a step back and get some perspective.

  13. VintageLydia*

    I stayed friends, I guess, when one of my coworkers was promoted. We worked in different departments, but because of the nature of the business (retail store) she was occasionally my supervisor. We were talking about getting an apartment together until she found out about the promotion so at least we had enough sense to not go through with that plan. Shocking, because late teens/early 20’s me had very little sense! But we did maintain a friendship and she became a bit of a mentor on top of that, but it helps we weren’t exactly besties or anything to begin with. We’ve drifted since then, but that’s more because I moved than anything else.

  14. Anonymous*

    Before I was promoted I was friends with someone who now reports to me and that relationship had to end because I couldn’t be an effective boss if the relationship were too personal. I know some things about my employees’ lives, just because it’s human nature to talk to each other but I am not friends with them – not after work, on Facebook or anywhere else. When those lines get blurred, it’s makes being a good manager difficult.

    Also, I should mention that being friends with subordinates is frowned upon my organization.

  15. Seal*

    This discussion should be mandatory for every new supervisor. When I was fresh out of college I took a job that involved supervising part-time student employees. No one, not even my own supervisor, ever bothered to explain the whole “they’re your employees, not your friends” thing. Since my employees and I were about the same age, it was particularly difficult to not blur that line on both sides. Worse, my supervisor (who was best described as very hands-off, as in he didn’t want to be bothered with supervising) hired one of my student employees for a full-time position at my recommendation. After that, chaos ensued. This woman had no interest whatsoever in maintaining boundaries between herself and her employees, and I became the bad guy for trying to establish order. Ultimately I lost all credibility as a supervisor there, and wound up leaving somewhat in disgrace. You better believe I learned some valuable lessons from that horrible situation!

  16. ExceptionToTheRule*

    I deliberately chose to not pursue a promotion once, in part, because it would have meant supervising people I had been close friends with. It was a good decision. A few years later, a lot of those people had moved on and I’d worked on what I felt my other shortcomings were, so when that position opened again, I was much better positioned to apply for it.

    1. Windchime*

      I had the opposite situation: I was good friends with a woman at work, and we were on the same team. That team was dissolved and two new teams formed; she was to be the supervisor of Team A. I ultimately chose to join Team B because I didn’t want our relationship to change from “friends” to “supervisor/employee”. I’m glad that I made that choice. I ended up leaving that workplace, but we are still (casual) friends. I’m not sure that would be the case if she had become my boss.

  17. Meg*

    My current position, my supervisor and my manager attends lunch with us. They don’t pay for us unless it’s an official “luncheon” – i.e. they typically do a group luncheon when someone gets promoted, or as a going-away thing (or a happy hour at the bar/restaurant across the street after work on the company tab). But every day regular lunches – yeah, we invite them; the more the merrier.

    But do I hang out with them outside of work? Not really. Actually, I don’t really hang out with any of my coworkers outside of work, peers or otherwise. Maybe that’s just me though.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      No, it’s not; I don’t either. I only have one job/outside friend and he still works at Exjob. He and his wife are both good friends, and I go to their house for dinner/parties sometimes, which I did a little while I was still there. His desk was in another building though, and he was NOT my boss.

  18. Christina*

    Ugh, this is one of the many reasons my manager is awful. She’s best buddies with one person on our team (they exercise together, go to church together, sit and chitchat for hours in my managers office). My manager even gave my coworker a present (in the office!) on her birthday. This coworker (and my manager) are also the least effective or productive people on our team, but the manager spends extra time with this team member on her projects, and it’s always “X and I are working on…”

    And my manager doesn’t get why the other 3 of us on the team don’t get excited about the prospect of team lunches or larger team building activities where they’re both involved.

    1. Gilby*

      Yep I had the same situation. The manager and the co-worker were very good friends and very close.

      Although the manager treated me and the rest just fine overall, I believed the manager would defend and agree with the co-worker no matter what the issue.

      Their friendship was so obvious I often felt like I was imposing on their private time and relationship even in work issues. The manager basically let her run the show and it got to a point that if I had an idea that cured world hunger and this gal picked out colors for balloons she’d be heard before me.

      It was pretty digusting actually. I lost a lot of repsect for my manager because of her inability to at least keep the friendship out of the office.

      Even a new gal caught on pretty quick to the situation and would say things like… Well… Susie knows how to organize the party soooo much better. Pretty much catching the theme, of Susie is worshipped so just go with it.

    2. Jen*

      Yes, I have been there. My old boss was buddies with one of the members of the team and the rest of us very much felt left out in the cold. Plus, the buddy who was our co-worker was very often not a team player but there was nothing any of us could do about it. She was very cruel to another woman on the team and it was allowed to continue because the manager wouldn’t step up to say anything to her buddy.

  19. A.Y. Siu*

    I can’t decide if they don’t like me or if it’s part of being in management.

    Part of being in management is that you should stop caring whether they like you or not. They should respect you. You should certainly try to earn their respect, too. You should be a good manager. But there’s absolutely no reason for them to like you, and it’s actually better if you don’t worry about them liking you.

    That said, I did work for a good friend of mine once for three years. We’d been friends for decades, so pretending we weren’t friends would have been silly. So we just stayed friends and tried to keep our professional relationship as professional as possible.

  20. LCL*

    Tried this. Figured out the answer was no when all the women in the building except me were invited to a skiing getaway. I do get invited to parties, and try to go, and let the hosts know what time I will be there. The culture here is that management and quasi management are expected to attend off work parties, but to let the group know that you are going.

  21. OP*

    Since asking this question I think a few more things have come into play. First, although on paper I’m supposed to have this team, in action my boss seems reluctant to delegate as I believe my boss likes, well, being a boss. This creates confusion as to my position in my opinion. Second, the boss does not seem to subscribe to the “employees can’t be friends” guideline so there seems to be some vying for attention involved as well and it isn’t for my attention, that’s for sure.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      This is going to make things a little tougher but not impossible.
      First, sit down with the boss and nail down what areas of supervision you are responsible for verses the other areas when he wants you to involve him. This will start to set some boundaries for you. Your credibility as a boss comes from him- if people think they can go around you and avoid you- they will. You might need to ask you boss to redirect certain situations/questions back to you.
      Second, find out what company policy is regarding socializing with subordinates. It does not sound like you can rely on your boss to tell you accurately. But by all means, ask him what his take is on that. At least you will know how he feels.
      Third, picture a parent with eight kids. What happens? All of them are competing for the parent’s attention, right? Some of that goes on in work groups. People compete for the boss’ attention. If your boss is a laid back boss, then you might even see more of that if people are not sure what to do or what is expected out of them. Turn yourself into a credible source that they can rely on. This will take time because you have to learn what they need from you.
      Lastly, if you do have one of those work environments where the lines are murky, then it is up to you to define your role and how you will “play” it. Other posters here have given good examples of what they have seen bosses do.
      Remember the word “boss” is not a bad word. These people are counting on you to help them stay employed and to keep food on their tables. You have a unique and important role in their lives.

  22. Cath@VWXYNot?*

    The first time I supervised a student, I did a horrible job because I’d always been friends with everyone I worked with, and tried to do the same with her. There were a bad couple of weeks where it all went to pieces, but I managed to establish some more appropriate boundaries and things ended well. I learned my lesson though.

    The really interesting thing is that my husband, who’s in a completely different career (I’m in academic scientific research, he’s a carpenter on a large construction crew), started supervising people for the first time around the same time, and ran into exactly the same problem. I think it’s a universal rule.

    The best bosses I’ve had are those who come out to after-work departmental drinks, but leave after one drink…

  23. Mystic*

    I’m friends with my manager in the sense that I am comfortable sharing with her things about my personal life that might affect my work life (chronic insomnia, stress, volunteer work, etc.) For me, it takes a certain level of familiarity/trust to be able to open up about anything that isn’t sunshine and lollipops.

    That also means that she is gentle and respectful of my feelings when she needs to give negative feedback to me. I’m grateful when my manager is open and honest with me about how I can/should improve. It’s similar to how I wouldn’t be mad at a friend who took me aside and told me I have lipstick on my teeth or whatever.

    That being said, I very, very rarely hang out with my manager outside of work.

    1. The IT Manager*

      If you were to leave your job would you social with her ever again?

      It’s a semantics thing, but she sounds like a “work friend” which to my mind is on a different level than true friendship. I am not saying that is a negative thing.

      1. Mystic*

        Probably not. I would certainly try to remain in touch, even if only for networking purposes.

        A difference I realized we have from the OP is that management is always invited to any coworker gatherings such as lunches, happy hours, even backyard barbeques. Basically, if you would invite more than 5ish of your coworker friends, people tend to invite the entire 30-person unit, including the 5 managers.

        And I think “work friend” is a perfect description! It’s more than just coworkers or teammates. I have had managers that I would only consider to be managers, not work friends.

  24. Anon 4 this today*

    OP, when I became friends with a woman I managed, my boss warned me that there could be problems but let me handle the situation as I saw fit. My friend and I would hang out in social situations where she met another friend of mine and they started dating. When that blew up like an atom bomb, I was in the middle. It was very, very ugly (no details; but trust me: VERY ugly). After that, any time I had to correct her work, she would get very defensive and take it personally. I ended up losing what was previously a great employee.
    Now, I don’t even socialize with people I work with (never mind those that report to me). It may work for some; but I am never going to put myself in that position again.

  25. ByMyself*

    I agree with Anne O’Nemity. I get that you cant be buddies with your staff, but I’m in a situation where that leaves me alone. The other bosses here are married men who obviously i wouldnt be asking for lunch, and women in a very tight clique where I am just not welcome. They hate me! Lol.
    At my age my friends are married with kids, so I’m very lonely. I work a high level job and just being able to have a coffee with a colleague or an after work drink would be my entire social life for a month…

  26. Lindsay J*

    My assistant manager and I are pretty much best friends. We go out drinking every once in awhile. We shop together sometimes. We talk about our issues at work and in our home lives.

    It’s really not an ideal situation.

    Though, honestly, if I were pushed I would probably rather give up my job than the friendship.

    It’s difficult for a number of reasons.

    He confides in me for issues that really are not any of my business because I am not a manager.

    The store manager seems to be resentful because she has tried to get closer with both of us, but neither of us click with her the way we do with each other. I have actually interacted with her outside of work more than I have him, but there’s not that connection.

    I wind up in the middle of their battles and I wind up feeling like the child of divorced parents, with the store manager asking me about things the assistant manager does, and the assistant manager getting his feelings hurt, and both of them trying to communicate through me or making passive aggressive comments to me more than they actually communicate with each other.

    I wind up feeling responsible for trying to fix his shortcomings as an employee or manager, when really it’s none of my business or my battle to fight.

    I haven’t heard any grumblings about favoritism from other employees, but I don’t really doubt that they exist or that the perception isn’t there.

    Honestly it was easier working alongside my fiancé for 6 years (we were both the same level) than it is being friends with my boss.

    He and I don’t really have any problems. Just because we’re out drinking together the night before doesn’t mean that I’m not going to be in trouble if I’m late or hung over the next day. If anything I think the level of respect I have for him has gone up rather than down, and outside issues don’t affect work or vice versa. But it’s definitely a bad idea and best avoided if at all possible.

  27. N.J.*

    This may not be the perfect analogy/comparison, but imagine the relationship between you and your employees as you would between a parent her children. You can’t fill your position of authority and guidance by being best friends with your employees or your children. You can be supportive, nurturing and fair, you can even be fun, but you can’t be their friend.

  28. Working Girl*

    It may be that they are jealous you have moved into a manager position. It may be that you are on the other side of work now and they are thinking of the things that said against management. It may be just that they respect you and feel you have a job to do and don’t want to put you in a conflicting situation. You should read, read, read about management position since you are new to it. Treat everyone with respect, help them grow as employees. I don’t get too close to management as I have seen others suck up and end up taking advantage and getting fired – imagine how you would feel having to fire your friend. There seems to be a misconception about going to work in some workplaces that people go to socialize – work is about working. While it is nice to be friendly, beware the trap of toxic workplace gossip also.

  29. Friendly Manager*

    Okay, I get that people are suggesting that you should avoid trying to become friends with your subordinates, but are there things you can do to try to mitigate the possible issues if you’re already close friends with someone who becomes a subordinate? This hits close to home for me — I’m in this situation right now, and while it’s certainly not a disaster, there’s definitely complications, and I worry about the “works fine until it doesn’t” implication…

  30. Director in NJ*

    I’ve read through some of the comments and the general consent seems to be against befriending your team.-
    I can understand why some people may feel that way and certainly do not judge those who do. However, I believe that these thoughts are based on the view that a Manager knows best and will always have to discipline, show the way… etc. I believe in breaking that mold with my teams and think that my role as a leader is just another piece in our team. As you meet people in the work place, there is a good chance that affinity may develop into a type of friendship. In my experience, it is crucial for all to understand that we have a common job to do and we do different pieces of it. I have been friends with team members for a long time, this creates an open environment where opinions are shared and challenged – regardless of who has the opinion. Not everyone will be your friend and management is certainly not a popularity contest. My number one rule is the team is first – and I make decisions based on the team’s best interest and not friendships. Everybody understands that and it has worked out well for years.
    Now, you can disagree and I know that what works for me may not work for you. All I can say, is maybe someday you get to work for me and you’ll see the light :)

  31. district manager*

    The only time I suggest to spend time with subordinates, is in a professional team building exercise. If you spend off time with select employees, it can be looked at as favoritism tward a small group or individual that directly reports to you. My suggestion is to not get involved with employees outside of the professional atmosphere, favoritism can ruin a career.

  32. Mann Chow*

    I have been working in a company for two years. My boss and I had really professional relationship initially but for past 8-10 months we have become very close. She has gone out of her way to help me with everything- be it for a project or help with promotion. In spite of that she can still guide me or even reprimand me or fire me should there be a need (I hope not).
    I think a boss and an employee can be good friends but the boss should be able to handle the situations well when it comes to finding the right balance between what’s good for the company and what’s good for employees.

  33. Danielle*

    I know this post was about a year to a couple years ago…and I know everyone has different beliefs, but I am becoming more spiritual.

    I have started believing this quite a while ago where a friend of mine taught it to me where we both believe that each and everyone of us that is living now has lived before in previous lifetimes. We both believe that everyone has lived about 2 or more times in past lives. And a lot of people ask: “How come we never remember our past lives?” The reason we don’t remember them is because our soul focuses on the current life we live now.
    -But also most likely, the people who are in our lives now most likely have been in our lives before. In my work environment, I know for a fact that one of my managers has been in a previous life of mine (It was something that I never experienced before, but felt it and it was an interesting, but a cool experience for me).

    Here’s a crazy thing in my opinion and this most likely happened for a reason. School just started for me earlier this week, and I happened to a run into a co-worker of mine where she happened to go to the same school as me.

    -Another thing: Dreams can actually be very interesting. And dreams can have symbolic meanings too whether it’s linked to a past life or not. Here’s a weird dream I had a while ago: I dreamt that I was a tall sailor man being the captain of some kind of ship and it was very clear and vivid because I remember wearing a white hat and a sailor suit. And here’s the crazy thing: I PROMISE that I didn’t watch anything that had to do with a sailor, a ship, or anything that happened in that dream. And another crazy thing: I do not like boating in this current life.
    -Very clear, and vivid dreams are capable of leading to past lives. If you want learn more about past lives and dreams, you can always do some research about them and see how they link together.

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