When you are a manager of an engineering company or an engineer with a relatively high position, you are most likely to work with lots of subordinates. They can be co-engineers, assistants, and other employees who have to work with you as someone with authority. And for that, you need to possess a kind of power at work.
But is it okay for you to be friends with them after a day’s job? Would you be fine hanging out with them outside of the workplace?
Before you decide, let us weigh in the advantages and disadvantages.
The Good Sides
Employee retention. Research shows that people, in general, who have friends in the workplace drives higher employee retention. A survey in the U.S. revealed that 30% of the population had a “bestfriend” in the workplace, with 75% of them planning to stay with the company for at least another year.
Stress relief. With the kind of work that engineers have, plus the responsibilities that come with the high position, it pays to have a close relationship with your coworkers. When you know personally well that people you work with, the odds are that you are more comfortable expressing your feelings and you know you have their back in times of crisis.
Honesty. Your subordinates are more likely to be honest with you as their boss when you are friends with them. This means that they could tell you criticisms and feedback when needed, which could help you and the company grow.
The Bad Sides
Favoritism. Perhaps you are unconscious about it, but having to make friends with a select few from your subordinates will breed favoritism. This could have implications in granting a raise or making the subordinates responsible for their mistakes.
Emotional crossover. Friendships have an ugly dimension too, and when they become a hindrance at work because of an unresolved conflict the day before, it could affect work productivity.
Hard decisions. You know what they say about being unable to fire a friend at work? Yup, that is a consequence too. Say that your subordinate, who is your friend, has been too complacent about your friendship, he or she will do the worst of things and think that he or she could get away with it. That’s not a good thing at all.
Insubordination. By making friends with your subordinates, your influence as an engineering manager is compromised. Why? Because your authority is no longer as powerful before. The familiarity has lowered it down, which gives the tendency that not all your orders will be followed by them.
Proximity. Familiarity breeds contempt. That’s it. When you feel that you have discovered something unpleasant in your co-worker that is something so personal, this could affect the way you think and feel about him or her.
Now it’s up to you to think if it’s okay to be friends with your subordinates. But based from what was written above, we recommend that it’s better to separate your friendships from your work environment.