The Manager Dilemma… Friends vs. Friendly

Dear Young Professional,

Sage business advice from my dad, “Don’t eat with the cooks”. WHAT does that mean? You are probably asking yourself, I too had to ask what he meant.

My dad had a fine steakhouse in Kenosha Wisconsin before the family moved to California. This phrase was a cautionary nod to being careful of getting too friendly with those, who in that day and age, needed to take and follow orders from the boss.

While your generation prides itself on 100%+ transparency and friendly work atmospheres, can being friends or too friendly with direct reports harm your brand and  potential for advancement? I will answer that with my common answer to all questions, “it depends”.

Let me share some observations I have seen and let you decide for yourself.

  • First Time Manager Syndrome: If your rise to people management is within your  same team or organization, first time managers often do not know to reset expectations with co-workers on their new duties. Previous friendships can suffer, as feelings get hurt when behaviors change. People may even feel you are “pulling rank” or worse “full of yourself”.
    • Most likely all you are trying to do is meet the new expectations placed on you. Ask your co-workers to understand you too are going through a transition.
  • Full Pace on Continuing Social Activities: Bowling leagues, drinks after work and other social encounters don’t relieve you from your duties as a manager of the company. Two things to consider, first in a social setting people may expect you to have your guard down and able to share information that may not be disseminated to the company at large. Introduce libations and oversharing and bad behavior is a recipe for career disaster.
  • Third Party Opinion: I have often witnessed employees talking about their managers in a not so favorable way. The friendliness becomes not only a lack of respect it also can lead to direct reports thinking they can make certain decisions because you as a “friend” won’t care or reprimand.
    • These conversations often take place in open spaces and can be overheard by others. Including upper management that has a say in your future. You can be seen as either weak or worse, have your friendships prioritized over the business needs.

Management (of people) is not for everyone. I would also say that management is not the only way to advance your career. You can advance by managing projects, serve as Subject Matter Expert (SME) on projects and more.

Take a moment and reflect. If you are a manager, where are you on the continuum of Friends vs. Friendly? If you are thinking of management, prepare for this nuance of the transition.

Fondly,
Aunt Kris

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.