Should leaders be friends with their employees?
Wednesday, September 12, 2018
I received an interesting question the other day from a woman who was watching my LinkedIn Learning course on Managing Up. She asked me how to handle managers who are emotionally dependent on their employees.
These are managers who need to be friends with the people they supervise. They take offense when they are not invited to join the team for lunch. They want to be included in your social circle and chat about your personal life.
I’ll explain how I suggested she handle this situation, but before I do, let’s take a closer look at the problem.
Too often managers want to be liked by their people when, instead, they should be seeking respect. I advise my coaching clients to create boundaries between themselves and the people they manage. It’s important to do so for a number of reasons.
Here are a few:
You have to be living under a rock not to be aware of the #MeToo movement that is taking hold across America. Even the perception of a misplaced glance can result in disruption of what may have been a very successful career. Why put yourself in this situation?
Occasionally socializing with team members after work is acceptable. However, taking offense when an employee doesn’t include you in her social circle is not.
Every day, leaders are required to make choices that need objectivity. These decisions include, who to promote, how to rate someone’s performance, salary increases, layoffs, etc.
These kinds of decisions are hard enough to make when you’re not friends with the people you manage. Now imagine how complicated things can get when you’re BFFs.
So what happens to the people that don’t have a close relationship with you or choose to keep a distance? They may feel like they are being treated differently and when this occurs, it’s not uncommon for claims of discrimination to come about.
This may not be your intent. However, in matters of discrimination, perception goes a long way.
Of course, even knowing this, you’re free to choose the friendship route with your people. If you do, just be sure the relationship is one that both parties are comfortable having.
And for those of you who are wondering how I advised this woman, here’s what I told her to say to her manager, "If I promise to leave my personal problems at home, will you promise to stop asking me questions related to my personal life?"
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