Why Can’t We Be Friends?

A tone was set for me early on in my Human Resources career that there was a dividing line. HR could be friends with other people on the team but anyone outside of that realm should be kept at a safe distance. “You know too much.” “It could get awkward.” I lived that way for a long time. And then I entered the world of advertising and met some of my closest friends. It’s not always easy and it’s not right for everyone, but HR can be friends with people outside of their team. As long as all parties respect that it could get weird if lines are crossed.

How to handle friendships within your organizations

Check out the tips below for how to handle friendships within your organizations if work in Human Resources.

Know the people.

Just like in any part of life, you need to take time to get to know people before a friendship grows. There will be people who are amazing that you love spending time with, however gossip is their world. Get to know that about people and realize that you’re not going to be able to be open with them. You can certainly socialize but set the tone early on that certain topics are off limits and if they don’t respect that, then it’s best to steer clear beyond work. The more time you get to know employees in general, the better sense you’ll get if hanging out outside of the office makes sense.

Know what you’re walking into.

You never know who you could be having incredibly difficult conversations with when you’re within an HR role. It could be someone who is very close to you personally if you embrace the “friendship is possible” philosophy. Having a strong relationship will help people through difficult conversations (even terminations) and make it more palatable than having stayed away and played the role of “by the book” HR practitioner. However, don’t be fooled. This approach can take a serious toll on you, on a personal level.

Know when to say when.

There will be times where you know things that others aren’t aware of. You have a role to play and can’t share information. This may break your heart or hurt your soul on occasion. Make peace with this by knowing that you’re the right person to walk these people through tough situations and will do right by them. Inevitably, there will be occasions where as much as you may want to hang out as a person, it’s easier to head home and not join in on the fun.

Know how to help.

Hearing things from someone who knows you well and knows how best to communicate with you helps. Having solid relationships with employees can go a very long way for difficult situations. What tactics work for one individual may not for another. If you’ve kept the entire team at a distance, it becomes much more difficult to anticipate how to help them or ease their pain when you’re needed.

HR practitioners need to be unbiased and consistent. I get it. But we need to start out by being human if we’re going to be effective. If we spend all of our time behind closed doors and not getting to know people, how can we ever hope to make smart recommendations on how to enhance the lives of employees? (and in turn the success of the business?)

Plus, it’s fun to have friends. HR deserves to have fun too.

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Kelly Poulson

Kelly has spent her career helping people kick ass and become better versions of themselves. Coaching, training, recruiting – you name it, she’s done it, and in a variety of industries ranging from advertising to behavioral health to tourism and beyond. Be it supporting new managers in their journeys from uncertain supervisors to rock star bosses, helping lost newbies zero in on what they want from their careers and find their inner confidence to ask for (and receive) that promotion, or enabling leaders to be more self-aware in their management styles and more skillfully interact with those around them, she’s done it all. Outside of pushing to make people and organizations better, Kelly spends most of her time marathoning Netflix programming with her mutt, Dexter. www.kellypoulson.com Connect with Kelly.


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