Sorry, HR, You Don’t Get Any Friends at Work

I like people. I like helping people. I like having people over to my house for dinner. In fact, just last night I had Kate Bischoff and her kids over for dinner. Kate’s a work colleague and a friend. It was fabulous.

But, if you’re an HR person, you absolutely, positively, should not have people in your client groups over for dinner. If you answer yes to any of the following questions about someone at work, you should never build a friendship with them.

  • Will I ever have to weigh in on a promotion or raise for this person or any person in their department?
  • Will I ever have to participate in disciplinary decisions for this person or any person in their department?
  • Will I ever have to help determine who, in this person’s group, to lay off?
  • If something bad happens, would I be involved in conducting the investigation in this person’s department?
  • Do I help influence hire/fire decisions in this person’s department?

Yes, to any of these means you are setting yourself up for a conflict of interest.

To keep reading, click here: Sorry, HR, You Don’t Get Any Friends at Work

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7 thoughts on “Sorry, HR, You Don’t Get Any Friends at Work

  1. No matter what the position you work, coworkers should not be more than acquaintances ( someone you know by name), because to have a relationship that is closer creates a bias thinking.

    1. Gonna have to disagree there. Why should I have to avoid someone with shared interests just because we work together? It only becomes a problem with explicit favoritism or when people feel there is an obligation to be friends with coworkers. For example I’m not friends with any of my coworkers, but we have several of my husband’s coworkers and their families over to our house.

      1. There are two concerns when HR has friends at work.

        The first is bias. Do they look out for their friends, even when their friends need to be fired? Do their friends rely on the favoritism to get away with things that anybody else would be canned for? Do they get bigger raises, more time off, or other benefits?

        The second, and actually more important, is the appearance of bias. It doesn’t matter if you *are* biased, even everyone believes you are. That can destroy a company just as surely as actual bias. And can do so with the HR person completely unaware that it’s happening, because if people believe you’re playing favorites, they won’t dare call you out on it. And the only control you have over it is to avoid the circumstances where it is even remotely possible.

        That is why the conventional wisdom is for HR people to have no friends at work, ever.

        1. Oh no, I completely agree with this! I was pushing back on Maria Rose’s comment that “no matter what position you work, coworkers should not be more than acquaintances.” I think HR is a completely different animal, but I think the notion that no one should be friends with coworkers is incorrect. (That said, maybe I misinterpreted her comment?)

  2. Avoid even the appearance of evil. Or, put another way, don’t bend over to tie your shoes while walking through the strawberry patch.

  3. I would think this applies much more to superiors (who make the actual decisions to hire/fire and promote/give raises everywhere I’ve worked) than to HR, who merely handle the administrative end after the decisions are made.

    And it certainly doesn’t apply at all to co-workers if neither of you has authority that affects the other.

  4. This is absolutely the most ridiculous thing that I have heard. You mean to tell me that just because I work in HR that I am not allowed to develop friendships in the workplace. You must live in a miserable world. I agree you must remain professional but not having friendships in the workplace is totally ludicrous. I have worked in HR for over 15 years and have had friendships in every company I worked at. Most of those people I have friendships with long after leaving the company. Just because I work in HR does not mean that I stop being who I am as a person. To expect anyone in HR not to be friends with someone they work with the most stupid thing I have ever heard. EvilHRLady you need to get your head out of the sand and live in the real world. You must be a miserable HR person in your company and one I am sure that no employee feels comfortable dealing with.

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