friend bossIn this day and age it is very difficult to find good friends, therefore when people have good friendships they consider them precious and they try to preserve them. Nevertheless, having a good boss is also hard nowadays. For that reason, when people are lucky enough to have a good relationship with their boss, they do not jeopardise it. So what happens if you become your friends’ boss? How do you keep a balance between being a friend and being a boss? How do you maintain both relationships without hurting either facet?

While being a boss is about being superior and about making executive decisions and calling the shots, friendships are based on equality and they are all about discussing and sharing ideas before making decisions. That is why maintaining the balance between these two relationships may turn out to be quite challenging, even problematic at times. However, there are some ways to achieve a balance.

Since the model of subservience is no longer working well for the new generation of employees, it is not recommended anymore. Factors such as teamwork, initiative, collaboration, and mutual respect are indicative for many companies’ success. It is commonly known that collaboration and negotiation are vital for successful relations between management and employees.Thus, promoting a friendlier image as a boss, enhances productivity and improves the relationship between the bosses and the workers. For that reason, being your friends’ boss is not detrimental.

Here are some pointers regarding this issue.

Be honest: The first step is to have an honest conversation with your employee-friend. Let your friend know that although this is a new situation it does not mean that your old relationship as friends will be destroyed. It is, however, essential to express that your friendship is as important to you as having a good working relationship. The expectations regarding your professional and personal relationships should be clear and distinct. It should also be stated that when you are interacting professionally, that is all there is. You should try to convey to your friend that you are both parts of a bigger ensemble and both of you should strive to enhance the business, thus it is vital to do what you have to in order to be successful.

Thinking ahead of the negative outcome your friendship may bring in the workplace and discussing these challenges with your friend, it can help to avoid negative consequences of being your friend’s boss.

Set Boundaries: It is not preferable to have your friend stopping by your office to have friendly chit-chats during working hours. Remind him/her politely of your and his/her responsibilities and duties. Deal with the issue the same way you would with any other employee. Advise your friend that this behaviour could make others at work feel uncomfortable and that it makes you both less productive.

Setting boundaries includes drawing the line between “managing” and “being friends” with your subordinate in a way that everyone in the workplace can identify it. These boundaries must be evidenced by the boss’s unbiased behaviors. Do not overlook the fact that it is up to the boss to establish the relationship between bosses and employees.

Promote Equality: You should treat every employee in the same manner. It is neither professional nor fair for a boss to give special treatment to anyone only because they are friends outside the workplace. As the boss you should not be more lenient with your friends when it comes to job performance, or allow them extra time off, or stop being strict with them if they do not follow the rules (i.e. not meeting deadlines, coming to work late, leaving early etc). That way resentment will not grow among the workers.

Be organised: Give all your employees feedback through a review. By formalizing the way you offer feedback is a good way to criticise without jeopardising your friendship. If the feedback is offered to everyone, then they will not take it personally.

friendly bossAdditionally, it is necessary that as the boss you provide guidance to your employees. During each meeting it is imperative that you state your expectations and the objectives which need to be met clearly, and that nobody leaves each meeting without knowing exactly what their duties are.

Therefore feedback is necessary to determine whether those objectives are being met, and to what degree. If you present the objectives in an organised and clear fashion to all of the subordinates (including your friends), you can avoid misunderstandings and the risk of arguing with them if the outcome is not up to your standards.

Differentiate your role in your mind: There are times when your goal is to maintain the role of being your employee’s friend, but bear in mind that this can turn out to be a slippery slope. You should never forget that you are also their boss. Boss being the operative word. As the head you are responsible for any failures and/or mistakes your team is held accountable for. Therefore, it is highly important that you are always professional and in charge. By managing correctly and distinguishing between the two roles, you can delineate that while you are friends, you are also their boss. Having said that, it does not mean that you should be inaccessible. You should strive to be approachable, polite and in general try to commend your employees and acknowledge their efforts. That way you can avoid the possibility of coming out as a snob who used to be one’s friend and now is his/her superior.

Additionally, it is crucial that your behaviour at work is professional at all times. Do not get tangled up in your “friend” role and gossip or complain about other employees or work to your friend. This can backfire if others notice this and view your behavior as favourable or unfair. It is preferable if you concentrate on discussing business at the office and your personal issues on your private time away from work.

Hanging out with your employee-friend: When you are spending time with your employee-friend outside the workplace, it is best to confine your conversation to topics which are irrelevant to work. This way you can step out of the boss’s role and it will allow you to relax and behave like you used to – when you were only friends – with that person. It also enables your friend to be more relaxed and comfortable around you. Furthermore, there is no way that this behavior will lead to favoritism around the office. Consequently, drawing that line will help you both separate your relationship as friends from your relationship as co-workers.

Do not end your friendship: Just because you became your friend’s boss it does not mean that you have to cut off your friendship. Good friends are so hard to find as it is, so loosing the ones you already have is not advisable.

In addition to that, if this type of behaviour becomes known around your workplace it will only lead to resentment between you, your colleagues and your subordinates in general.

Respect: The truth is that if you find yourself reminding your employees that you are their boss, then perhaps you are not receiving the proper respect to begin with.

Do not feed your friends reasons to take your role as the boss loosely in the risk of showing to your other subordinates that they can disrespect you.

This means that you should always be aware of your behavior even when it entails activities concerning your social and personal life. You can be social with your friend-employee, however you should modify your behavior appropriately and should not act in embarrassing ways such as getting drunk to the point that you lose control, or engage in arguments or fights. Behaving in this way will only make it impossible for your friend to take you seriously at work.

Finally, the most significant principle to go by is that any kind of human relationship – let that be friendship or working relationship – must always be approached with respect. If so, then there is no danger in experiencing great losses.

Since there are cases that your friend will become your subordinate, it is not possible to forget the fact that you were friends before this immense change. It is possible though to carry on with your working relationship without hurting your friendship.

Just like any experience in life the purpose is to learn and to teach.