Leadership VS friendship: How to maintain a relationship in the workplace for those in positions of authority

Leadership VS friendship: How to maintain a relationship in the workplace for those in positions of authority

Why does status change a person's behavior?

Have you ever seen one of your close peers receive a promotion, or be appointed to a Board, only to then treat you and existing workplace friends in a different, negative way?

Have you ever seen these people use their status to take advantage of your friendship, by exercising unnecessary control over you?

What if you truly enjoy someone’s company and you would like to see them as a friend, even though they report to you?

This area of friendship and professional relationships is a minefield, but it needn't cause you trauma. Can you be friends with staff or Board directors and still be a leader? Yes you can, if you are willing to not buy into what most other people believe about friendship.


What do we mean by true friendship?

True friendship is about being in gratitude, being respectful of what others choose (or don't choose) to do and resist passing judgement over their actions. True friendship is where you choose that relationship, but at the same time are willing to release it from your life if that is what the second party desires.

We have seen too many times where people treat friendship as an obligation or a way of manipulating and controlling others for personal motives. Have you ever seen this happen and then heard from one or the other: “Oh, but we are friends!”

Try this as an exercise. Take the last two paragraphs and swap the word friendship with the word leadership. What insights might this suggest?

If friendship is about exclusion, manipulation, or neediness then friendship and professional relationships with staff or Board members cannot coexist without creating trauma in the workplace.


So what can you do? Here are some questions to ask:

  1. Are you willing to create a friendship that does not own you in any way, but is from a position of gratitude for the other person?
  2. Are you willing to see when another person is trying to manipulate and control you and be willing to stop that behavior if required?
  3. If people are not performing against agreed indicators, are you willing to performance manage them? Are you willing to do that with a friend who is also a staff member?
  4. Do you have different standards and expectations of your friends and your work colleagues?
  5. Are you willing to be aware of how your friendship will be perceived by other staff or directors, and be in allowance of any judgments that others might have of you?


Consider this situation we have encountered:

All my interaction with my staff is negative. Whenever I talk to staff members, it seems to be about something they have done wrong. How do I combat this?”


Whenever you feel the need to be critical, ask yourself any or all of the following before you say anything:

“Am I making something significant here that is truly not significant?”

“What question do I need to ask that will empower this person?”

“Am I looking for an answer that meets what I have already decided is right? What if there was no “right answer"?

Leadership is not about force and effort. It is about accommodation and a willingness to be wrong.

Do you have an experience of friendship being at odds with leadership? Let us know in the comments section below.