Is it possible to be friends with your employees?

5 Feb
by Suzie Business Owner & Senior HRBP

As a business owner, you have a duty of care towards your employees, but what happens when things go beyond that? Obviously, you care about all your staff, but the danger lies, possibly, when you start treating certain employees differently to others. Unless you are the Chief Executive of a large corporate organisation, chances are you will know everybody who works for your organisation personally. So, perhaps you have realised you can’t shoulder all the burden by yourself? You’ve started going for coffee with the longest-serving employee and have been using them as a confidante? How can you be sure you can trust this person to keep anything you tell them confidential and not spill the beans to the rest of the team?

Creating Boundaries

There will always be someone that you employ that you think you know better than others but you need to ensure that you treat all employees fairly. Unless one of your team is in charge of supervising or managing any of the others, then anything to do with underperforming, for instance, or employees’ personal circumstances needs to remain between you and them, and not be shared.

If any member of your team needs to confide in you, then they should also be able to do this with the knowledge that it is not going to gossiped about amongst their colleagues, otherwise they will no longer trust you.

Then there are the social occasions: work lunches, birthday drinks, etc. Everybody needs to be included in these events so nobody feels resentful of not being invited. Don’t go out partying, if it’s not work-related.

Top tips:

  • Treat all employees equally
  • Invite all team members to social events
  • Remember who’s the boss
  • Know when not to cross the line
  • Don’t connect with employees on non-professional social media platforms
  • Remain professional
  • Make clear, consistent decisions


There may well come a time when you are required to discipline one of your workplace ‘friends’, which is why it’s best to maybe keep your employees at a suitable arm’s length otherwise this might prove to be a difficult task. Should this ever happen, disciplining a friend in the workplace may likely cause tension and create an atmosphere. Other employees may realise that something is not right and start asking questions, or the employee in question may try to use your friendship to their advantage in any disciplinary outcome.


Should you require any further information on the above, please contact the Breathing Space HR offices on 0113 426 7735 or email



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