Can a boss really be friends with their employee? Ask most HR experts, and they would all say a big NO. And I agree.

But this is a hard rule to juggle as, instinctively, you will want to get to know your employees BOTH on a professional AND personal level if you are a great people manager. Getting to know your staff personally can be a great way of understanding how to best coach and motivate them for the benefit of the business.

But becoming 'friends' with them is a different story and can cause many issues. So here are the top 5:

1. Perception. 

If you find a deeper personal connection with a select group of your employees, the perception of favouritism can cause huge resentment amongst your other staff. This can flow through to a general lack of motivation across the business.

2. Not Putting the Business First.

Once you become "friends" with an employee, it can easily cloud your judgement about what is best for the business. Ideas and business directions that may not be right can be easily ignored or even endorsed because of a personal connection to an individual. This can be dangerous.

3. Performance Issues. 

It can be challenging for close friends to be critical of one another, but business growth relies on unbiased performance evaluations. Sometimes great people need firm performance management or are even encouraged to exit the business. This is life. However, if you have a personal friendship with an employee, you may avoid these conversations for fear of damaging the friendship.

4. Talking Shop.

We all need to turn off from work to be productive. Having a friendship with an employee means that work is your common bond and will take up much of your social conversation out of work time. This is counterproductive for all involved and contributes to burnout.

5. Confidentiality. 

As managers and business owners, we are privy to a lot of information relating to the business that, for the benefit of employees and the business in general, should often be kept away from employees. It is easy to share too much information with an employee with whom you have built a friendship. This information leak can damage the employee's performance and the general business if it gets out, which it usually does.

If you are a manager who happens to hit it off with one of your employees, be friendly while showing professional courtesy and keeping the boundaries firmly but respectfully in place. If you find these lines moving over time, stop and readjust the boundaries to ensure the connection you have found with the employee benefits the business and is fair for all your employees.


Simon Ingleson

CEO/Founder @ RosterElf

Magically Simple Rostering