Can/should bosses really be close friends with their staff?

02 August 2021, 09:06 am
Speciality Bites by Paul Hargreaves

The traditional answer to this question is “no” and some may argue that friendships at work make it difficult to address issues of performance management, others might think that work and pleasure don’t mix and still others say that bosses should keep their private life private and not let their people see their whole self

I disagree.

For far too long we have run our businesses with leaders leading in a rather distant mechanistic command-and-control mode which no longer works. Far better for businesses to be full of people, including bosses, being their real selves, focussed around a strong purpose and having fun whilst achieving their goals. Within this healthy environment friendships at all levels will inevitably happen.

Due to the breakdown of local community in the West, particularly in urban environments over the last hundred years, the workplace is often a vital part of an employee’s community life. Lasting friendships are made, and life partners sometimes discovered. One sign of a healthy company is that the bosses are also able to make good friendships at work. Gone are the days when leaders were put on a pedestal and no-one dared to disagree with their decisions. The best leaders today serve their people by exhibiting their vulnerability and humanity and it would seem strange to me if friendships didn’t naturally develop in that more real, non-hierarchical environment.

There is certainly a dearth of good friendships in the 21st century and I, as a leader, definitely need friendships outside my immediate environment to gain alternative perspectives. I have several of these, but I also have several close friendships with people in my team, and I believe this makes us a better, stronger business.

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