No, project managers cannot be close friends with their employees

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013 By Jack Nevison

Can a manager and an employee be friends? Answering that question first requires a clear understanding of the differences between "employee and "friend."

If a "friend" is someone with whom you have pleasant conversations and occasionally join for an after work gathering, then there is no reason why you, as a manager, cannot be friends with your employees. But most of us consider our friends to be a bit more than that. We spend a lot of time with our friends. They see our best and worst characteristics, often things that we do not share with the rest of the world.

With this in mind, it is difficult for those who serve at different levels of a company hierarchy to reach that level of friendship.

Alison Green, a Business Insider contributor and writer of The Fast Track blog, recently responded to a manager who wrote in, wondering why those working under her seemed unwilling to include her in their after-hours socializing.

"The staff all get along; they go out to lunch together, go to happy hour after work, go on breaks together, even do a few things outside of work, but no one has invited me to do any of it," the manager wrote.

Green responds that managers and employees face several professional boundaries that prevent them from becoming close friends. First of all, the relationship is "inherently on unequal footing."  Managers are in a position of power over their employees, and must "evaluate…give direct feedback, and even potentially fire someone." Meanwhile, employees must constantly strive to meet the manager's expectations, and at times must "subvert what they want in favor of what [the manager] wants." While not this is not usually a problem in an office relationship, it's not a good basis for a friendship.

That's okay.

After all, the most important job for managers and employees is to keep the company running smoothly and profitably. It is certainly possible for both parties to interact with each other in a supportive and friendly manner.

Just don't expect to become BFFs.

New Leaf Project Management offers a number of training programs for managers seeking to improve, including "Leading Project Teams: The Human Side of Performance." With these programs, our website white papers, and our online QPM estimating games, New Leaf offers several ways to learn while you earn PDU credits for PMP recertification.

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