Can you be friends with your employees?

September 21, 2018

There’s a fine line between being friendly with your employees and being so close that you have a conflict of interest! In her latest blog, Kim looks at how you can get the balance right.

By Kim Mills

Being a manager can get lonely. You’re privileged to a lot of sensitive information and are often responsible for making important decisions about operations in the organisation. There could be a restructure in the business, redundancies, investigations or even a disciplinary hearing. You might know that finances are poor and cut backs need to happen, and you can by no means share this information with your ‘employee friends’ until the proper procedures have been put into place to solve these issues.

You also need to remember that if you do share this information with someone you shouldn’t, you then put them in a difficult position as they then have the pressure of keeping it to themselves.

Aside from dealing with sensitive issues and confidentiality, it can also be lonely as a manager from a social perspective.  You might want a work buddy like everyone else, someone to go to lunch with and have a laugh.

I have never been a manager myself but I have had managers that are too friendly with certain members of staff. As a member of staff, this has made it harder to fit in, as you can feel left out and are unable to confide in that manager as you can’t trust they won’t share this information with their ‘employee friends’. You can also feel that ‘employee friends’ will get an easier ride, fewer objectives, more praise, bigger bonuses and more chance of promotion. I’m sure there are many people out there that are thinking this right now!

There’s definitely a fine line between being a friendly manager and a manager with ‘employee friends’. Friendly Managers – will ask how your weekend has been, know about your personal life and have a laugh and a joke with the whole team.

Managers with ‘employee friends’ – can single people out, pay more attention to certain members of the team and don’t invite or include the whole team in social events.


Here are some ways to ensure you don’t slip into this behaviour:

  • Treat everyone fairly.
  • Include the whole team in the relevant conversations and social events.
  • If you have an issue with a member of staff, make sure you only talk to them about it instead of telling other employees.
  • Definitely don’t recruit your close friends!


But what if you were work friends before you became a manager? Tricky right?

Have a conversation with your friend and discuss that now you are a manager, there is a certain way you need to behave and that you can’t always have an open, honest discussion about work with them. Ask them not to probe for information and if you do go out together, try not to discuss work too much. If they’re true friends, they’ll understand and respect your decision and if they don’t… are they really worth jeopardising your job?

You’ll also need to explain to the other employees that although you have friends in the team, all of their personal information will always remain confidential.

Be fair, be professional, and in turn you’ll create a good working environment for the whole team and be an honest and fair manager.

Interested in learning more about the skills needed to be a great manager? Just get in touch with our HR180 superheroes and we’d love to help!

Leeds based HR180 is a team of superheroes in HR Outsourcing, Projects and Consultancy committed to work in partnership with organisations of all sizes to establish working policies to go above and beyond Employment Law requirements, to protect both employees and employers alike. We love to hear from you, so call us on 0113 287 8150 or hit the Rescue Me button.

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