I would like your perspective on managers socializing (lunch, after hours, etc.) with directs, or senior managers with managers, etc. ?

Some would say once you have moved upward, you have to limit interaction so not to blur the line.
Others have said it would be acceptable as along as some boundaries are not crossed.
This question often arises when a peer is promoted.

I appreciate your input.



Mark's picture
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This is not a simple question, so this brief answer may be insufficient. But for now:

Socializing with your directs is highly recommended. By this I mean ALL your directs, as a group.

On the other hand, spending an order of magnitude more time with one or two of your directs versus all the others is HIGHLY likely to be prejudicial to one or both ends of the relationship, as perceived by others.

For now, hope this helps. Podcast later this year.

It's a privilege to serve you.


bflynn's picture

[quote="jobmover"]Some would say once you have moved upward, you have to limit interaction so not to blur the line.
Others have said it would be acceptable as along as some boundaries are not crossed.
This question often arises when a peer is promoted.

I think the general rule still holds - you can (should!) always have a relationship with your direct reports. Also, your two statements are not incongruent. There are boundaries that limit interaction. They are both saying the same thing in different degrees.

It sounds like the issue you're observing is when a person is promoted and becomes the direct manager of people he was previously equal to. Yes, the relationship will change. It cannot remain the same and the new manager cannot spend the same time with his former associates. There is a very fine line to walk between acknowledging the old relationship and working under the new one.


Fiannelli's picture

As a consultant I find that a great deal of my work (85-90%) has come from former peers getting promoted and then calling me when they had a need. Sometimes they are in a new location sometimes they are in the same company where we previously worked. In the latter case some my peers in that job are the former peers of our boss.

In several of the cases I have been long time close friends with the boss. Usually its a friendship that was made on the first contract that simply grew over the years while we were no longer working together.

On a couple of occasions friends who ended up working for me on one contract referred their management to retain me to manage them.

In these situations all involved maintain a professional relationship at work. But we remain friends and do socialize outside of work. On a personal level these are valuble people in my life. On a professional level they are valuble contacts.

I can't imagine this is unique to my experience. But it seems to cross the line that is being discussed here. Comments?

douglase's picture

Ok. I have this issue. With all of the problems that go with it. This is probably because I have been working for the same place for about 10 years. I am friends with several of the other people who have been here for a long time.

In one instance, one of my staff said to me that I must find it hard to manage my friends. I said to him, I find it extremely difficult to be fair and on serveral occasions I have had to remove myself from recruiting processes to avoid bias.

It makes your life more complicated. It makes managing your team more complicated. But sometimes you just plain end up making friends with people.


cowie165's picture

Hi Douglas,

At the risk of sounding harsh (nice qualifier there) the employer isn't paying a salary for socialising. An employee receives a salary for the results they deliver.

Firm, fair and friendly; not familiar. So goes the cliche.

I have a direct that supervises a team of air traffic controllers. When questioned on why didn't he intervene sooner to prevent a possible aviation safety risk, he replied, "but they're my friends, it's just not that easy". Thanks to that man, I have a yardstick with which to measure my professional relationships with directs/subordinates.

I completely agree with your view that it makes your life more complicated; your relationship cannot come before what needs to be done.


douglase's picture

Yup. I agree. However, you can't discount human nature. People tend to make friends eventually with the people they spend a lot of time with.

The other factor is, that I for example, have made friends with co-workers and now years later I am their boss. That's life. It just makes everything more challenging.

cowie165's picture

I sure can relate to you having friends and then becoming their boss. I'm in the same boat. The feedback model has helped me through a few awkward situations; pre-MT I would have shied away from the 'conflict'.

And being friends with your colleagues sure helps the day go faster! A rapport with your team most certainly overcomes a lot of obstacles.

Mark's picture
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I'm sorry this has taken me so long. I regret my absence.

I don't think we're in conflict. If you are spending a lot of time differentially with people who report to you internally, that's not effective. If you're a consultant, the guidance is VERY different.

[b]Horstman's Law of Small Business Marketing: the small firm (YOU!) that gets the business of the big firm is the one who:

a. has a relationship
b. with the decision maker
c. when the decision maker realized he has a need
d. and is aware that the small firm can fill it.[/b]
It's ALL predicated on relationships. ;-)

Again, my apologies for my delay.


Mark's picture
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Your friend in the air traffic business scares the hell out of me. Glad you took his measure.