Managers don’t have to forgo workplace friendships, but they do need to have boundaries, avoid cliques and rely on “structured social time” such as monthly conversations, writes Brit Booth. “Care about the people you manage, and you’ll find out that it’s a winning decision that can be the difference between good leaders and great ones,” she writes.



After more than 36 years of coaching and cultivating remarkable basketball teams, Dean Smith of the University of North Carolina had achieved legendary status. Yet one of his primary mentoring and managerial philosophies wasn’t to tower over his athletes or scare them into performing. It was to care.

In fact, one of his former team members remembered him by stating he didn’t just get a coach for four years. He got a friend for life.

As a team leader, would your colleagues say the same? Would you want them to? It’s an uncomfortable question for many people on their way up the corporate ladder: Should they become friends with co-workers? Should they keep an air of distance?

In my years of building teams and guiding others, I’ve found that friendship on the job is a bonus. When teammates feel deeply connected, they build trust faster, exhibit higher levels of creativity and feel more secure in their roles. They also dive into work with more positive attitudes because they know you don’t see them as replaceable units, but as people you care about.

Honing a people-first approach

This isn’t to suggest that you should treat teammates like university buddies. Rather, you should see direct reports as people first and seek to form bonds that extend past quarterly meetings and the documents on your shared drive. After all, companies with empathy at their core tend to rise to the top.