Should Managers be Friends with their Employees?


Quick answer: Yes.

Recently I had a manager leave my company. As she was leaving she said she would like to come have lunch sometime and be friends with the people on our team. She explained she could not be friends while she was the manager.

I know this is popular thinking, but it is not accurate.

Good managers are also good leaders. To lead you have to be able to influence your followers to achieve the desired objectives.

I consider Jesus to be the best leader who ever lived. He developed and trained 12 core followers that eventually transformed the world. How did he treat his followers? He called them friends. And how did he define a friend? Someone who he would be willing to die for.*

So why are managers afraid to be friends with their employees? Most of the time the reason is learned behavior. This is what they have been told or shown by their leaders.

But those who truly understand what friendship is may shy away because of the commitment involved in truly sacrificing for the benefit of your followers.

An objection is that if you act like a friend then you would not be able to discipline or fire your subordinates. This is not true. I have been fired and needed to fire others. If the situation warrants it this is appropriate behavior. If someone is in the wrong role it is not "friendly" to have them continue.

A parent gives and loves sacrificially for their children, but the best ones still provide discipline when necessary.

So who influences you more: People who are committed to your success or people who are looking out for their own interests?

The best managers, and leaders, are your friends.

*John 15:13