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Should leaders have friends at work?

Should leaders have friends at work?

Are you a leader who manages friends in the workplace? Do you have a boss who seems to favour their friends at work? Do wish you had a boss who was also your friend?

Leaders often fear that with their friends at work they will –

  • Not be able to evaluate them objectively
  • Not be able to take tough calls when the situation demands so
  • Not be able to give them feedback without compromising the friendship
  • May have to make exceptions that may not meet the test of objectivity and/or fairness
  • Not be able to say no to their unreasonable demands

So should people in leadership positions have friends at work? Should they fear having friends at work? Will this fear compromise their ability to take decisions? Is a leader having a friend at work the same as being friendly with his subordinates?

Like a good parent can't also be his child's best friend, a leader with authority requires some separation from subordinates.

-Simon Sinek

A leader who has these fears and ponders over the consequences, is on the right path. This is a “good fear” which may keep them honest & help them take objective decisions about their friends. A truly great leader is able to overcome this fear, separate personal relationships at work from business decisions and act fearlessly, taking decisions objectively in the best interest of the organisation and employees. Companies with such leaders survive and thrive. Friends of such leaders know they can’t cross the line with them professionally.

The problem are “so called leaders” who cannot understand the separation between “being friends” and “running an organisation without favouritism and nepotism”. I have worked with and observed people who have completely compromised their organisation to protect and promote their “friends”. Probably they came into leadership positions in the first place because of friends who gave them similar benefits…and so it goes on ad nauseum.

So should people in leadership positions be friendly at work – of course they should. Should they compromise work, business & organisational interest on the altar of friendship – of course not!! A clear line has to be drawn between being a friend and being a leader.

Would be great to hear your comments & experiences on leaders as friends at work.

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