Be Friends With Your Employees?

Is it a good idea to enter the “Friend Zone” as a boss? Many people say that will cause problems. There are many, many articles written that talk about not getting too close to your employees because they will respect you less, take advantage of you, or that you will not keep them accountable to perform.

There is an accepted thought among leaders that getting too close to your employees will result in less productivity and a weaker organization. They will say, “You need to be a boss, not a friend. Your employees need to be pushed and held accountable, and that is not possible if you are too close to them as friends.”

You can Google “too friendly with employees” and get millions of results. Most results are articles about the dangers of getting too close to the people that report to you. It will cause problems with your leadership and ability to motivate your employees.

I think this is silly thinking on stilts. It also reveals a very important thought that people have about leadership and effectively managing people. Most of these articles talk about it being more difficult to keep an employee accountable if you are too friendly with them. There is less respect for a “friend” boss.

It also reveals something about how bosses and employees are typically viewed. Bosses are weak and employees will take advantage of any weakness they see to keep from performing at their best. So, bosses must keep a distance, be stern, and crack the whip to make sure their people work hard all the time.

In my experience, bosses that cannot keep employees accountable to company or departmental performance, will not be able to do what is necessary whether they are close to their employees or not. Bosses that find it hard to fire a poorly performing employee will find it hard if they are friends or not.

The best boss is one that knows their employees well, and one their employees know well. If you know, respect, and honor your employees, they will perform past your expectations. “Cracking the whip” is old school Command and Control thinking.

Employee’s respect for you as their boss is based on your performance in your job and whether you will pull the trigger on important decisions about your department/company and them as employees. Respect falls when you are a weak leader, whether you are close to them or not.

Do not confuse the employee “Friend Zone” with weak leadership. Do these things to make sure you are creating strong leadership with your employees:

  1. Share with them your goals for your department or company, including performance expectations from everyone involved.
  2. Make sure they know your priorities and how they fit in.
  3. Pull the trigger quickly on any problems and performance shortcomings that happen.

This will allow you to get close to your employees and get their respect at the same time.

Jack Zoellner (Relational Leadership Speaker)

Jack Zoellner is the "Relational Leadership Speaker." He shares his revolutionary 5-step M.A.G.I.C. method for managing workers and radical company culture change through speaking, writing and consulting. For your next event, book Jack here >>