Employee Resigns - Walk Them Out the Door Or Let Them Work a Notice?...
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Sports and HR - What the Knicks Teach Us About Manager/Employee Friendships...

Topic - Being good friends with employees you support as a HR Manager or those that you supervise as a manager...

Let me first say this - you are damned if you do, and you are damned if you don't.  Everyone wants to be more than a HR Director or the manager of an employee - we want to be someone that the employee can rely on in times of need, someone the employee can consider a friend.     The downside is that deep friendships with employees you manage directly or support in a HR capacity can sometimes position you as questionable with employees that aren't in the inner circle.

So, we all dance the dance to figure out the middle ground.

Of course, there are other concerns.  You could be hijacked by an troubled employee grasping forMarbury leverage in an employment situation.  Case in point?  Stephon Marbury of pro basketball's New York Knicks.  From Deadspin:

"Stephon Marbury (guard for the Knicks), an investment that has totally paid off for the Knicks, supposedly blew up at Isiah (Coach and GM) when he learned he wasn't starting last night and bolted the team. But his threat to Isiah is the real beauty here.

"Isiah has to start me," Marbury fumed, according to the source. "I've got so much (stuff) on Isiah and he knows it. He thinks he can (get) me. But I'll (get) him first. You have no idea what I know."

We can only imagine how juicy this must be. Lord, Stephon, please don't tell us he was in the truck with you and the intern. That's too much for our meager brains to take"

That's the ugly side of getting too close with the employees you manage or support, or for that matter, with those who supervise you.   The winners are those of us with an open door and the reputation for being approachable.  Those at risk?  Both extremes - those waaaay too close to those they manage (see Isiah above) and those who never say hi in the hallway. 

Find the middle ground accordingly.  Nobody wants someone to go all Marbury on you....

Comments

Chris

Why is it that "Everyone wants to be more than a HR Director or the manager of an employee - we want to be someone that the employee can rely on in times of need, someone the employee can consider a friend"?

In business environments where success is increasingly dependent on what the employees bring to the table (their knowledge, skills, etc.), are there no HR directors who are friends to noone (but still polite & "friendly") but excel at identifying, hiring, retaining, and providing the right incentives to maximize effort? I think HR should be (and can) evolving into a dual function - one that manages the people as a valuable asset, much like the Finance Director manages the firm's financial assets, and one that manages the interpersonal relationships of the employees and provides the traditional HR support services. (I am not alone in this thinking, and it is hardly my original idea.) It is detrimental to existing HR professionals looking to move into the first role, for HR leaders to assume we all "want to be someone that the employee can rely on in times of need, someone the employee can consider a friend."

I would also note that the concluding advice, "Find the middle ground accordingly," is appropriate for all business/workplace relationships. A co-worker could just as easily hold something over your head, as could a manager.

Wally Bock

Nice post, Kris. Some years ago I did some research on the transition from individual contributor to supervisor. New supervisors seem to go through a Boss Phase where they give orders and expect deference. They also seem to go through a Buddy Phase where they try to be everybody's friend. Many get stuck in one or the other, but more effective supervisors go through a third phase of their transition where they work on finding a balanced position that fits their job, people and personal style.

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