The short answer? Yes, but with caution.

The longer answer:
Many leadership consultants will tell you, “Absolutely NOT! Do not be friends with the people you supervise.” We respectfully disagree. It can work, as long as you’re willing to walk some fine lines. One of the problems with a hard and fast rule about not being friends with people you supervise is what to do in a situation in which you were already friends with someone before you got promoted. Are you supposed to announce you can’t be their friend anymore? That’s not only awkward and difficult, it’s just not the way the real-world works.

If you do enjoy a friendship with someone you’ve worked with and are now going to supervise, here are some things to consider that could help keep both the work relationship and the personal relationship healthy and enjoyable.

1. Have a conversation about it
We are big proponents of authenticity. It’s time to get together with your friend and talk openly and transparently about your transition to management, and how that might impact you both. What concerns do either of you have? What might you both want to do (or not do) that will help you be able to wear both the “friendship hat” and the “boss hat?”

2. Don’t do the friendship at work
It’s totally OK for you and your friend to continue to hang out outside of work. However, when you’re at work don’t talk about your weekend adventures or the movie you saw together. Don’t yell over the cubicles, “Hey Jeanine, I’ll see you tonight!” Don’t hang out together at work any more than you hang out with anyone else at work. Don’t let Jeanine use your “open door policy” to chat you up for an hour a day. Bottom line – you’re not trying to hide your friendship, you’re just not wanting to flaunt it in anyway. If you do, you run the risk of triggering people’s fears about favoritism.

3. When you’re out doing friendship, try not to talk about work
It’s OK to have a good friend who you also supervise, but it’s not OK to give that person privileged information that others don’t have or talk about your feelings towards other employees or seek their advice on decisions that you’re not seeking other people’s advice on.

4. Keep your boss hat on
Remember: When you’re out and about with your friend, you are still representing your organization. Don’t do or say anything that you wouldn’t want every single employee to watch on a big screen TV!

Comment