One of my current projects involves traveling around the country speaking to audiences filled with predominantly young leaders. Today’s Challenge came from this group. However, the question is not confined to young leaders… Can I be someone’s boss and their friend?

Although friend and boss may be a paradox, the answer is yes – you can be both. It is not only possible, I believe it’s desirable to have deep friendships at work.
First, the case for friends at work…

  • For most of us, we spend more waking hours at work than we do with our families. What a tragic place work would be if  devoid of friendships.
  • Although friendship and community are not synonyms, they are closely related. Community is the turbo-charger of performance in a team-based organization.
  • The Gallup organization discovered that a “best friend” at work enhances performance. Statistically speaking, friendship is an elemental ingredient for full engagement.

How do you make it work?
Clear roles and expectations are critical. Do your friends, or potential friends, at work clearly understand what’s expected of them? Working with friends is no license to be sloppy about expectations or performance. On the contrary, I think you’ll find people will work harder, show more diligence and exercise more creativity for a friend than an enemy.
In the end, the mission, vision and values of the organization must trump personal friendships. As a leader, you are paid to help the organization create a preferred future. This is accomplished one goal at a time. That is your job. If you have a friend on the team and they cannot fulfill their role, you must respond accordingly. You must do your job and lead.
Maturity is required. I am not suggesting that working with friends is easy. I am suggesting, I wouldn’t want it any other way. The longer you lead, the easier this will become. Also, my guess is the more mature you become as a leader, the more you’ll want to go to work with friends.
Some of my best friends are men and women I work with every day. Many of them have been my direct reports at some point over the years. I’m glad I didn’t have to choose: friend or boss. Well, I guess I did choose – I chose both. You can too![GLS_Shield]