manager employee relationship

nuff said

When bosses are friendly with employees

Can the manager employee relationship be friendly? I am asked some form of this question on a regular basis and I believe the answer SHOULD be yes. Sometimes the question comes from an individual contributor who is now reporting to someone who used to be a peer and is wondering if the relationship will change. Other times the question comes up because an individual contributor says “I don’t want to manage my friends”. In reality I think the real crux  is the fear they may have to fire their friend. I think both attitudes are whackity-whack. For all of you who were thinking about a physical relationship, shame on you. This isn’t that kind of site. 

First things first:

Thing 1:

If you are NOT able to hold a friendship with your manager, don’t expect to get very far.

Thing 2:

If you don’t want to be friends with the team you are managing, don’t expect to get very far.

I am not saying you need to kiss up to your manager, sleep with your manager or put up some fake, insincere front. I am saying we should have the emotional intelligence and maturity to be able to hold a positive relationship with just about anyone we work with. We should absolutely be able to have a similar manager employee relationship. After all, this is the person that will have the most influence on your career.

Hanging out for drinks, going to the occasional ball game with company tickets, or having lunch with my manager are all things I should be able to do within a manager employee relationship. Receiving advice, mentorship, or career guidance are all things I want to hear from a manager and a friend.

I am NOT saying we need to elevate our relationship to BFF status with pinky swears. I don’t expect anyone to share the chewing gum you are currently chewing that might still has some flavor in it. 

The strong manager employee relationship

Personally, I have learned the most from prior managers where there was a strong manager employee relationship. I would say that in a number of cases, my best managers have been best friends and mentors. For some this may sound weird but for me it makes total sense. I want to see my manager / good friend be successful and my manager / best friend wants to see me be successful. If my friend isn’t going to give me any advice, who will? It takes an emotional investment and courage to give real advice and that isn’t going to come from someone who doesn’t care. How can we not help but align and accomplish goals when we have a strong manager employee relationship? Relationships without trust and a common goal usually fail in dating, marriage, and sports teams. It is no different with work. 

We may not always have the ability to pick our managers the way we pick our teams or our significant others, but we need to work with what we are given. We need to figure out a way to make these relationships work. 

Take the emotion out of the equation and just consider the business logic. Our manager is the person that can have the most impact on our career both short-term and long-term. For this reason, it is in our best interest to hold a positive manager employee relationship.

A strong work ethic and results are important, but to accelerate your career, we need to demonstrate emotional intelligence and maturity and navigate relationships long-term. We don’t want any leader to think we are not able to handle sticky situations. EI and maturity will help us navigate the relationships. Successful employees are able to balance these 4 factors as they progress through their careers whether they are managers or individual contributors. We are not talking about dating your manager, romantic dinner invites or giving up your season tickets to the local sports team. 

It is our career, so it is ultimately our responsibility to make sure these relationships work.

A few scenario’s I hear on a regular basis:

“My best friend at work was just promoted to manager and the power will go to their head.”

Gimme a break. Yes, there is the slight chance that the power of becoming a manager will go to our friend’s head but I want to throw out two questions. Would the company promote your friend if they thought the power would go to their head? Would you have become friends with this person if you thought they were one small promotion away from becoming Napoleon with an ego complex? As their friend, don’t we owe it to them to help them keep things in check? 

“I don’t want to be the manager of this group because everyone on this team is a friend. I don’t want a manager employee relationship because I wouldn’t want to fire anyone.”

This is a cop-out. Instead of looking at the glass half empty, let’s look at the glass half full. As a friend first and a manager second, don’t we want to be the person that helps your team promoted or land new opportunities? YOU can be responsible for making sure these folks are successful. YOU know what makes these individuals tick better than any manager from the outside. YOU know what motivates these folks and turns them off. Who is better equipped to help them be successful?

manager employee relationship

Next time you hear yourself poo-pooing a manager employee relationship or hesitating on a manager role because you would be managing your friends, take a minute for a reality check. In the immortal words of Ice Cube “You better check yo self before you wreck yo self”. Is it the manager / manager role we are worried about or is it ourselves?

Next time we are wondering if we can have a relationship with a manager who was previously a peer, check yo self. Whose maturity do we really doubt? Ours or the managers?

See you at the after party,

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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Executive Coaches and a great career resource

Posted: by HRNasty in Climbing Career Ladder, Networking, What HR Really Thinks

Executive Coach can make a difference

Executive Coaches for the individual contributor

I was just introduced to a new online resource, and it is full of well written, relevant articles on the topic of career growth. This blog looks to be part of The Economist magazine’s Executive Education Navigator site which is full of resources including a lot of great blog posts. One blog post in particular on Executive Coaches struck a positive personal chord and I wanted to add a couple of personal comments in the hope that others might find value. That post is here. I have been blogging on the topic of coaching and mentorship lately and this post on executive coaching echo’s my personal philosophies.

The author, Liz Funk makes a case for the use of an executive coach and I couldn’t agree more. Even if you are not a CEO, I think a “career” coach is something that all of us should consider regardless of where we are in our careers. Olympic athletes have coaches. Luke Skywalker had Yoda and the Karate Kid had Mr. Miyagi. Why shouldn’t we have a coach for our individual careers We want to make progress just like the previously mentioned right. Let’s face it, if CEO’s are utilizing coaches, shouldn’t we as individual contributors? Who says they should get all the perks?

To be clear, I do not consider myself to be an executive coach, and this is not a commercial or pitch for So just a quick couple of data points.

  • I have used coaches in the past and found them to be immensely valuable.
  • We don’t need to be an executive or spend big money on coaches. There are many ways we can find career coaching regardless of where we are in our careers and our budgets.
  • I have never met and do not know the author of the article. 

At the last company I worked with, the executive team was given a monthly budget for executive coaching. Our CEO worked with a coach on a weekly basis and found tremendous value. This CEO is a smart guy and the problems he is trying to solve are at a different level than most. Just like a sports coach, a career coach can make us better. As Funk’s article mentions, “It is lonely at the top of an organization” and CEO’s feel less comfortable letting their hair down with a peer or their boss.”

When I was early in my career, I was brought on as an early employee into a fast growing company to head up the HR department. The company was relatively small at the time, and my 10 years of HR experience was enough to get us to the first 50 or 60 employees. When we got to employee 100, I was getting in over my head. I had a small team of great employees, but I didn’t have what it took to get the company to 200 + employees or more.

Initially I tried to get it done, but I realized quickly that even if I got us to 150 employees, I wouldn’t get us much further. We needed software, process, more resources and most importantly, we needed the ability to scale. Although I wasn’t at the point of panic, my breath was getting shallow and I always had a brown paper bag nearby. I was feeling backed into a corner. To me it was inevitable (and a bit embarrassing) that my skill set would run out. I approached my CEO and said that I should step down and we should hire someone who could really scale the company. I would love to be an individual contributor, but I didn’t think I had what it took to take us to the next level.

He didn’t even hesitate. Johnny on the spot, he said that I should go out and get a coach. That coach may be a player coach initially but to get a coach to help me through the knothole. If the coaching wasn’t enough, then maybe the coach would be my next boss, but he let me know I would be involved in hiring any future boss. This turned out to be a very short and casual conversation and not half as scary as I thought it would be. For the record, a coach was not an option I had even considered. The CEO set the tone for that career make or break moment and I try to remember that as I find myself leading others.

Initially, I worked with the coach a couple of days a week, then 1 day a week, then a couple of days a month. Eventually, I just had a quarterly check in. I have the CEO to thank for giving me that opportunity and believing in me, and we eventually grew the company to over 300 employees with 6 offices and 4 international locations. Yes, I continued to lead the HR department and I couldn’t have done it without the coach. I don’t know where I would be today if I didn’t have a CEO that believed in me and provided access to a coach. At the time, I was not considered an executive so yes, I am a fan of coaches.

The article referenced above goes on to explain what to look for in a coach and what questions you should ask a potential coach.

Although the article is geared toward executive coaches, the concept of a coach can apply to all levels. For those of us who are not executives or receive an allowance, I blogged about how to find a mentor here  and I believe they can cover a lot of what a coach will do. Make no mistake, mentors and coaches are two different things and I am not trying to dilute the author’s message. Execs usually get a budget for executive coaching but as individual contributors, we may not have this luxury and mentors can be as reasonable as a cup of coffee or a nice lunch.

Check out the site and next time you are facing a crossroad in your career, consider a coach.
See you at the after party,

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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