I just interviewed a great candidate for a vacancy in my group. She is intelligent, affable, articulate, possessed of a good work ethic, and has an excellent reputation in the industry. For her sake, I hope she rejects the offer I will give her.
I struggle with this type of thing all the time. Over the years, I have built a great team, and in so doing have condemned them all to the same prison sentence I am forced to endure each dreadful day. Mixing business with friendship never works over the long haul, as the responsibility you owe to the company as manager often directly conflicts with your personal sentiments on a given issue.
I had a salad for lunch. It was not made to order, but pre-made, and included a little plastic cup of dressing. It must have been sitting a little while because the oil and vinegar split into their component parts. By shaking vigorously, I was able to create an emulsion that remained mixed for my entire lunch. But if I left the emulsion out in the cup for a while, the oil and vinegar would once again have separated. This is what it’s like working with friends.
Try as you might to separate business from relationships, the real world doesn’t work this way. Go tell your buddy (who happens to be a direct report) that effective immediately, he is being cast out of his office, moved to a small cube by the bathroom entrance, and his responsibilities are likewise being significantly diminished. Wish him a good night as you see him leaving his cube that same day, and when he nods in response without making eye contact, marvel at how well he’s taking the news of his new role. “It’s just business” you tell yourself, satisfied at the way the personnel decision worked out. “I’ll talk to the wife about having them over this weekend...”
I’ll bet you a scotch, he has a preexisting commitment that day, and will not be able to honor your gracious invitation.
While management 101 would dictate that you not become friends with your direct reports (or really anyone who is at a direct report level), this corporate mandate also breeds managers who objectify staff, regard them as chattel, and who lose touch with the human element. This inability to empathize also renders these hapless managers impotent when it comes to getting the most from their people, coaching and developing them, and bringing out the best in the team. There is no bonding, no sense of team, or of belonging to a unit. In this reality, the only way to build a great team is to hire talented people who care about the work, and who will produce great work because they care -- not because you expect them to.
Manufacturing America is brain dead and on life support, and Corporate America is very sick indeed.