Working in a harmonious environment is a wonderful situation for all concerned, as long as everyone knows where they stand.

But what if the line becomes blurred between the professional relationship and a personal friendship? Is it possible to be both a boss and friend?

On the one hand, it can be a positive thing to manage your friend. Increased communication, closer cooperation, and a generous dose of goodwill are great ingredients to improve productivity and performance.

However, when there’s a whole team involved, things aren’t quite as straightforward, so the situation can quickly go pear shaped.

Peter Bregman, a well known leadership coach, sums up the main skills required by a ‘manager friend’ as ‘unwavering integrity, emphatic listening, clear speaking, and strong boundaries.’

Before trouble at the mill is brewing, it’s a good idea to review your management style and your day-to-day behavior towards your team.

Here are 4 useful tips on how to be both a boss and a friend.

1. Set Clear Expectations at Work

Office policies and procedures are only meaningful if they apply to everyone equally. Ensure that all team members abide by the same rules, friends included.

This goes for time keeping and shift scheduling, dress codes and professional behavior, team tasks, and performance standards.

When it comes to enforcing workplace policies, it’s tempting to be more relaxed with trusted personal friends who you know won’t let you down.

Whether you allow them to turn up in jeans, give them more flexibility in their working hours, or an easier ride when it comes to performance targets, this is a dangerous path to tread.

Favoritism is not only unfair to others, it will be noticed faster than you may think, and quickly sow seeds of discontent within the team. Make sure you set clear and consistent expectations across the whole team.

2. Lead by Example

As a team leader, it is up to you to set the bar for the desired attitudes and behavioral standards of the entire team.

Your own professional behavior is what your staff will be looking to for guidance. Human failings notwithstanding, you need to show them how it’s done.

Practice excellent customer service and great interpersonal skills. Dress professionally, and maintain a good work ethic.

Make sure everyone in your team knows that they are equally valued for the contribution that they make, and that career development opportunities are open to all.

Address any shortcomings straightaway. Regardless of whether one of your team members is also a friend, you cannot tolerate unacceptable behavior or poor performance within the workplace.

3. Establish Guidelines for Socializing with Staff

You may all be one happy family at work. But if you regularly go out for drinks with one of your employees or spend time together at the weekend, your other staff members are bound to wonder what’s going on.

Will the ‘manager’s pet’ be privy to insider knowledge or confidential information that the rest of the team don’t have access to? Will your work decisions be disproportionately influence by the opinions for your ‘friend’?

Will your buddy receive preferential treatment in terms of pay or promotion? You can see how easily the team dynamics can be negatively affected by your innocent actions.

It’s important to establish accepted guidelines for socializing with your staff, keeping a distance between your personal and professional life.

The occasional lunch with individual team members might be OK, but you may need to draw the line at after hours partying.

That said, if your friendship is long standing, a mutual agreement to keep your relationship simple and professional in the workplace may well be all that’s needed.

4. The Minefield of Social Media

Facebook and other personal social media platforms are another flashpoint. Connecting professionally on LinkedIn is not an issue. But once you veer into the personal sphere, things take a different turn.

People use their private Facebook or Instagram accounts for all sorts of purposes, on the understanding that they can be open and honest, posting and sharing whatever they like. But how comfortable would you feel if your personal ‘stuff’ was shared with other members of your team?

The repercussions of an inappropriate post or image could undermine your professional reputation.

Think twice about connecting on social media with the people you work with. If you must be Facebook friends, it may be time to review your privacy settings.

How Can You Be a Boss and a Friend?

If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Mike James
Mike James is an experienced, independent content writer in the marketing industry – working together on a project with staff management software specialist Planday.