#Human Resources #Employer

Should HR Have Work Friendships?

Mohamad Danial bin Ab. Khalil
by Mohamad Danial bin Ab. Khalil
Aug 07, 2020 at 5:11 AM

Despite what most employees think of HR, the HR function is naturally human. It is crucial for an HR professional to have a good relationship with people, getting them to trust and confide in. The essential elements of Relationship Management competency are building and maintaining internal and external relationships, and assisting employees in navigating relationships within and outside of the office. 

Ultimately, HR is about people. But one should also remember Ethical Practice, the competency that covers maintaining confidentiality and avoiding bias. HR must consider organisational culture and business policies from the point of view of both the organisation and the staff.

Finding that balance will guarantee that every employee is treated with fairness and respect, that the organisation succeeds, and all parties avoid legal troubles. Here's how HR professionals can balance professionalism with friendliness:


What to consider when it comes to HR's relationship with employees


1. Build a diplomatic and trusting network with every employee

 It is wise for HR to meet every employee in the company. Ideally, an HR professional should have a friendly connection with all of their colleagues, even if it's not friendship.

An HR's relationships with their colleagues will always be more defined by their common goal of helping the organisation reach its targets since that is their job. This means it is crucial to build and manage a relationship with most, if not all, of the organisation.

As HR, we need to be someone the employees of the organisation can trust. Being friendly and attentive helps us to build that network. 


2. Be honest about our bias

If an HR professional has any close friendships with coworkers for any reason, they should excuse themselves from situations that could see to be a conflict. 

Be honest about your bias if you do have close friendships with colleagues. Though you might think there's a way to work around it, it is recommended to be honest and recuse yourself. 


3. Do not get involved in emotionally close relationships

Those in human resources have to maintain some distance in their friendships in the workplace. Friendships that are "emotionally close", ones where a person might share more than some light information about their personal life, or where they might spend time together outside of work, should be avoided if possible. 

You are the person that understands how the boundary applies to you. For example, if you can go to the gym with a few colleagues without becoming emotionally close, then it is recommended to continue that arrangement. But one should know that going to the gym with colleagues is emotionally very different than going to someone's wedding. 

If you're not sure how to define the boundary based on this situation, be honest with yourself in terms of how this might be seen by the rest of your colleagues. How might it affect your relationships with the colleagues whose gym or weddings you aren't going to? 

Some experts believe that HR professionals are not there to like their coworkers. It's more about understanding people, business practices and regulatory demands, as well as fostering a culture that lets the business and the staff to grow. It is cool if you like your colleagues, but that is not HR's function in the organisation.

men having conversation sitting on chair
Remember to maintain the balance between friendliness and professionalism.

Where to find friends?

Since it's the nature of HR to remain professional, it does not mean an HR professional cannot make work friends. You can always find someone (for example, other HR professionals) who you and develop closer bonds with, even if you don't seem to have a lot in common.

It's a good move for HR professionals to try and find friendships either within the HR department or outside of work.


It should be HR's aim to create a friendship-friendly workplace

Even though HR may have to keep an amount of distance from colleagues for the sake of their position, they do have a crucial role in workplace friendships. HR professionals can create an environment where other employees are more likely to make work friends. 

According to SHRM, HR professionals can educate employees about potential issues and help develop strategies to address sensitive issues. These opportunities can be designed by HR, or can come simply through encouraging employees to work together on projects, shared tasks and so on.

Supporting other workers in their workplace friendships and giving the tools to navigate any pitfalls allows HR professionals to create a supportive workplace many employees need in order to thrive.

By showing respect for, and interest in, the people one works with, they lay the foundation for high-quality relationships and encourage everybody else to do the same. Ideally, the best result on can hope for is an environment where people love working together and performs their best. 


A natural part of work includes interpersonal relationships, but as an HR manager, it is important to strike a balance between friendliness and professionalism. 

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Sources: SHRM & Namely

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