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Are you in "the friend zone"?

friend zone


When I was in high-school the worst phrase a guy could hear was “I like you as a friend.”

Oh, the anguish and trauma of unrequited love! It was a curse to be a”friend” with someone you were sweet on. It was practically impossible to move from “friends” to “more than friends.”

These days, my kids tell me this is called being in the “friend zone.” And from what my son’s say it’s still the kiss of death.

You’re not in high-school anymore, but you might still be trapped in the “friend zone” at work, especially if you got promoted to lead a team you used to be a part of. Of, if you own the company and hired folks who you become friends with.

You’re not in high-school anymore…

Being in the “friend zone” with your team is also a bad situation. From my experience, being in the friend zone with a programmer meant…

1. I resisted offering them honest, direct correction, for fear of offending them.
2. I constantly wanted to be seen as a “nice guy, a real friend.”
3. I was much more likely to “pretend something bad hadn’t happened” (For more on this, see yesterday’s email)
4. Team members who weren’t as close to me felt I played favorites” (nepotism).
5. Firing them was 100x harder.

In short, when I managed people who were in my “friend zone,” everything was harder. This was because when I was leading the team, I had a larger obligation to the entire team, and the company. I was trying to balance two very different roles.

If this is you, it’s time to take stock. You should always be friendly. You should always be nice. But most of the time you shouldn’t be “real friends.”

You simply can’t afford to try and be both boss and friend. If you’re like me, you’ll end up neglecting one and focusing on the other, which confuses everyone.

To address this, I suggest you a list of your developers. Then ask yourself which of them, if any, you are concerned about being in the “friend zone” with. Ask yourself if you’ve been treating them better (or worse?) than others and if this relationship needs to change. Remember, if you’re withholding feedback to be nice, they aren’t going to “just get the hint.”

They deserve a real boss, who treats them like everyone else.

About Marcus Blankenship

Where other technical coaches focus on process or tools, I focus on the human aspects of your Programmer to Manager transition. I help you hire the right people, create the right culture, and setup the right process which achieves your goals. Managing your team isn't something you learned in college. In fact, my clients often tell me "I never prepared for this role, I always focused on doing the work". If you're ready to improve your leadership, process and team, find out how I can help you.

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