Many people spend as much – if not more – time with their professional colleagues than they do with their families. And spending so much time in such close quarters inevitably leads to close friendships.

Boss or friend?

In many ways, this can be a good thing as colleagues who consider themselves friends with one another are often more supportive, more open and more willing to go out of their way to help each other. The close bonds within a company also help foster a sense of togetherness and loyalty to a business that can be invaluable to its success.

Yet leaders of companies and organisations have to manage their workplace friendships very carefully. Some of the responsibilities of corporate leadership – such as reprimanding or even firing employees, or having to make tough business decisions like resource cuts or redundancies – can be difficult to square with friendships in the workplace.

So the relationship between boss and employee must in certain respects be a formal and professional one. There are, however, a few ways you can be both friend and boss that can be beneficial to your business.

How to be both a boss and a friend

Firstly, know that you can’t always be liked. You won’t be able to please all the people all the time – and you shouldn’t try to. Recognise that the needs of the business come first and, while you should resolve conflicts wherever you can, remember that it’s you who will have to take tough decisions.

Having said that, you should always be even-handed with your employees. Be fair to all your staff, even when you count some as personal friends and others as professional acquaintances. Equally, you should take the time to know all your employees personally – even if you head up a large business. In fact, the idea that the boss takes the time to know a bit about everybody in the company will help your staff feel more valued.

You also need to know how much you can share. As a corporate leader, there will be much that you cannot or should not share with your employees. If you need to find someone to turn to for sharing concerns with or to ask for advice, find a peer within your professional circle, or maybe a leadership mentor of some kind.

Finally, always remember to conduct yourself like a manager. Be aware of your language or behaviour within the office, so avoid gossip or being overly informal. Don’t take yourself too seriously, however – your staff need to feel they can be open with you and to talk freely. An unapproachable boss can cause too much of a ‘them and us’ vibe between management and general staff.