Hi everyone,

I'm a long time listener to the podcast and have a question I thought may hopefully provide me with other perspectives.

I've been a team lead for some years in a technical role, so I have had a medium level of management responsibility. I have recently taken on a new position as a fulltime manager in a technical department.

My question revolves around people's views on familiarity with your direct reports. I currently have 6 direct reports and the same number of contractors. I'm a firm believer that a good relationship with your reports repays itself in an open honest and more productive relationship. My problem is whether it can be taken too far. I have put in some effort to get to know my team, I lunch every day with my team and play sports occasionally with them too.

My fear is that when it comes to the crunch and I need to take a more serious management stance, that my over familiarity with my reports has removed some of my authority or respect?

I know people have many different styles of leadership, I personally prefer use the carrot over the stick but some prefer the reverse.

I'm interested in other people's views/experiences.

Many thanks

Mike Wylie

pmoriarty's picture
Training Badge

I'll take a stab and say that if your directs start perceiving you more as a friend or colleague than their manager, then you are running the risk of undermining your effectiveness as a manager.

There's an old saying from my military days, "Undue familiarity breeds contempt."

That doesn't mean that you shouldn't socialize with your directs or care about their personal lives. I believe that both of those are important in developing a good and trusting relationship with your people. However, you need to be able to draw some line that inhibits their thinking of you as more of a peer than a boss.

dpipitone's picture

I find myself in a very similar situation. I am a recently promoted Team Lead (from Senior Designer), and my direct reports are all folks who I have worked with at one time or another at other firms, and along side as a peer. Now suddenly, after knowing them so well on a peer level, I am now their manager.

This has caused a bit of head-tilting and chuckling, especially regarding the 1-on-1s and other Manager-Tools tactics. As if they have a hard time taking me seriously. Like, "Are you seriously going to do all this stuff? Are you for real?"

I have found it has been helpful to stress to them that, although I now have new responsibilities and will have to take a bit of a different approach to some things, it is done out of caring for their growth and development. That seemed to help turn the skeptics into folks who are going to take at least the one-on-ones seriously.

This conversation is helpful for me too as I learn.

Team Lead / Creative Director
Software Engineering Institute
Pittsburgh, PA

quenfis's picture

Not sure if this will help or not. I am finishing up the last chapter of "First, Break All The Rules" (An great book by the way) in which it discusses this a bit.

On page 203, there is a piece that says "(about socializing with your employees)If it is your style, then there is nothing damaging about having dinner or a drink with them, as long as you still evaluate them on performance outcomes."

I think you are okay, as long as you can still sit down with them and talk about performance and the job task at hand.


attmonk's picture

I have found that its not too much of a problem usually, but I have to remind people from time to time that they have overstepped their mark and that can be tricky. It really depends on the person and the situation.

juliahhavener's picture
Licensee Badge

I believe that knowing my team makes me better able to target feedback to what they are most concerned with. It also means that they can and do bring me their 'big stuff', keeping it off the desk while they are working and somewhere manageable to them.

I see no problem with socializing with them so long as you are socializing with all of them (don't take one to lunch and not another). You also have to be able to talk business and provide relevant feedback regardless of whether or not you have a basketball game after work.

dmk1's picture
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I think it comes down to the fact that you cannot be nice in all situations; people in the team will need to be held accountable to their commitments, regardless of how friendly you are with them. But I don't see being close to the team as incompatible with enforcing accountability.

What is interesting, and can help to continue to foster good relationships, is that once you start to show your limits, people will be less likely to test them.

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

You're getting good advice here.

It's okay to have lunch every day...but equally, for the most part. It's okay to play sports with long as you don't overdo it and those who don't play end up excluded.

The problem here will be YOUR behavior, as it always is. Why not do these things? Because managers lower THEIR guards. If you can still focus on performance, and have lunch and then say, "that's unacceptable", you're fine.


madcow's picture

Thanks for the good advice.