If you are a leader at your organization, you may find yourself in a situation where you’re hiring or managing a friend. And if your friend is struggling in a management role, their subordinates may end up coming to you with their concerns. In such a case, it may be hard to hear complaints about someone whose way of thinking you thoroughly understand.

Having a friend’s back is important, even when they don’t have the better part of an argument. But when your friend is also one of your employees — and a manager at that — taking his side of things based on friendship alone may have big consequences for your business.

The Upside of Office Friendships

So you’ve made some friends at work. Good for you.

The good news is that not only are you running a business, you now have people in your life with whom you’ve forged even more meaningful relationships. It’s a great thing to findcomrades in the office on whom you can rely on for things beyond the business.

Some benefits of office friendships include:

  • They show you can build strong interpersonal relationships. Clients, contacts and colleagues will see that you get along with a variety of people.
  • Office pals help you maintain a healthy work-life balance. Friends who care encourage you to go home on time, eat healthy lunches away from your desk, and take rest when needed. Their support helps manage stress and ease burnout.
  • You and your buddies are mutually concerned with each others’ professional success. Real friends offer their staunch allegiance and help you prosper.

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Keep Your Friends Your Friends, and Your Employees Your Employees

Hiring a friend to manage a team means adding responsibility to what was previously a more casual relationship. Both owner and manager must remain open to the concerns of other colleagues with whom they do not share a close personal bond by:

  • Being mindful of each other’s office reputation and refraining from sharing intimate information at work.
  • Leaving all inside jokes at the door.
  • Refraining from bringing personal concerns of high emotion or great dispute into the office.
  • Scheduling off-site times to discuss personal matters and proceed to work professionally with each other until you can meet outside of work.

We know who our friends are and what made them that way. We expect them to behave as they always have. But friendly expectations may be a trap.

Allow your friends to grow and become someone new at work, especially if the person they are becoming will be a great manager. Together you can agree to take off your party hats while at work. Yes, your friends may keep you humble by giggling when you put on a suit and a tie, but you should never be afraid to be your work-self, even when a friend is present.

Other Tips for Managing Friends in the Office:

  • Think before you hire. Can you make the necessary adjustments to allow the working relationship to work?
  • Avoid favoritism. Always picking the best person for the job.
  • Shake things up. Do not overbook yourself to manage a friend. If you’re stretched in several directions, don’t blame yourself for being a bad mentor. If the relationship isn’t working, assign your friend a new manager or mentor who can get them back on track.
  • Look hard at yourself. If you are indeed the best option to manage a friend, be sure keep your end of the bargain. Examine your boundaries and management style so that you can help your friend succeed.

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How to Fix the Problem Is a Case-by-Case Decision

It takes bravery for subordinates to complain about their supervisor to upper management. Some may be quick to call them troublemakers for breaking ranks, but they may also be bringing a legitimate concerns to your attention. If that happens:

  • Do not take your friend’s side just because you understand their perspective and value. For liability reasons, you must appropriately investigate all concerns.
  • Do not act rashly with new information. Pay attention to what you see happening. How are your employees communicating? Is the job getting done?
  • Do not risk losing talent because of office friction. Young, energetic employees, in particular, are vulnerable to poor management.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to managing friends in an office setting. Do you leave things as they are; find better-suited employees; rehabilitate your friend with managerial training; take away their responsibility?

Do you fire him?

You won’t know what to do until you know what is really going on. Be patient. Act with intention. Your ultimate duty is to your business and all of the employees under your authority. You cannot make everyone happy, but real friends will understand your limitations.

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