HR Department – Can HR have FRIENDs at Workplace?

Reading the above statement, there are two opinions coming up for discussion:-

a) HR developing friendship at work, can give rise to a conflict, if the disciplinary issue is against his own friend.

b) Friendly HR department which is well versed with the culture, knows the pulse of the employees and the management.


What do you think? Should HR be friendly at work place?


What Do People Generally Think of the HR Department?

HR is evil. They have their own way of working. They hire. They Fire. HR people are not emotional. HR doesn’t understand the market. You cannot be friendly with them. HR department work in silos. They are less aligned to the business. They only work for the interest of the management.


With people already having such inhibitions in mind for HR people, it is a difficult task at hand for them to develop healthy and cordial relations with their people. Having said that, can HR become your best friend at work? Yes!! Absolutely. People value and respect if you have your principles in place. You know what is right and what is wrong. You know to say ‘NO‘. Even if you are friendly with your people, you ought to know how to set the expectations in place and everyone must understand that all are working for a cause. In discipline or misconduct cannot be tolerated even if the culprit is a friend. You need to take the right approach at the right time. So again coming back to where we started, does socializing really help in the long-term?


If you ask my frank opinion, I would say the real essence lies in how you bond with your people and the organization. You need to enjoy your work. At the end of the day, it’s all about team work and how you align yourself with people and your ability to work collectively as a single cohesive unit. People come to those who listen, can understand their problem and offer solutions to them. Your bonding with the people will not only instill confidence but will also give strength to them. Keeping in mind that your job takes precedence over friendship and you need to separate them when it comes to performing your duties.


So, if HR department has friends at workplace, how can it benefit everyone:-


a) Stressful people or those under pressure, sometimes look for a shoulder for support. In such a situation the bonding will definitely help in addressing their grievances.

b) HR is responsible for creating a friendly environment. Even in a conflict situation, it’s an HR who helps in solving that situation.

c) Being friendly with people will help an HR to know if anything is going wrong or against the policies of the organization.

d) People tend to open up more when they feel comfortable with someone. Being friends will definitely help in performing our duty well. After all at the end of the day, we are responsible for creating a conducive work environment and a disgruntled workforce will only hamper our performance.

e) HR can become influential while communicating any management decision to the people.


How to PREVENT going overboard?


a) Even if we are friends, we need to keep up a certain level of professionalism. An HR must know how to stay on the edge. Becoming over friendly will be just destructive.

b) In HR, you are part of various internal discussions which are confidential. You should not divulge any critical information even if someone is close to you.

c) Don’t be too emotional with someone as it then becomes difficult to separate work and friendship.

d) You decisions should not be biased if you know someone. Do not let the world see you as playing favourites.

HR department must balance of being friendly and approachable still maintaining professionalism at the same time. None should feel that you are sharing their information here and there. What are your views on the overall discussion or the points mentioned so far.

“What do you think? Does HR friendships work or do not work?”

  • Happy says:

    Hi Amit,

    In my opinion HR can have friends. The only provision as it applies in all relationships is to always be cognisant of what applies and doesn’t apply to the friendship. In essence the work/friendship lines should not at any stage be blurred.



  • Deborah says:

    Hi Amit,

    HR can have friends at work but both sides have to understand the responsibilities that HR has with to discipline and to protect both employee and employer with regard to information shared. It certainly can be a tough tightrope to walk.


  • Deborah says:

    Friendly can mean many things, depending on who you talk to. Lets assume for arguments sake that we mean caring, courteous, and able to identify with an employee’s feelings. I believe that HR must be that. Understanding behavior is essential, but good decisions cannot be made without emotionally connecting. Who wants discipline, job reviews, or hiring/firing from a cold shoulder? If friendly means a personal friendship or relationship, I think it’s possible given that both sides going into the friendship respect the limits of the HR professional in a disciplinary situation, and that is a tough position to be in

    Deborah Ybarra

  • Bandapu Ravishankar says:


    HR will not maintain friendship.
    He will be in friendly nature.
    He will see over the Employees to do work.
    There friendship never mind he must take disciplinary action against his friend.
    He must be supportive to the organisation on the other side he must
    maintain employees.
    HR wants the worth full, Hard working person’s for the growth of the

    Bandapu Ravishankar

  • Mercy says:

    Hie Amie

    Yaa, these statements are so controversial for sure. If the HR person becomes too freindly or too soft, she will end up compromising some of the things she need to be doing, like one would not follow certain procedures for the betterment of the company.

    At the same time, if she becomes too tough, she will lose favour from the rest of the staff members.

    Yaa these statement needs to be considered for sure.

    Best regards


  • Emmanuel says:

    With regard to the question asked, I think the benefit outweighs the challenges raised. I therefore think it is very important that an HR manager develops friendship at work. One of the things that will make an HR manager successful is to be friendly but firm and play by the books.

    That is, an HR manager must not be seen trying to shield other employees because of any perceived relationship or friendship between them.

    A friendly HR is able to mediate in any situation involving the organization and employee.


  • Daniel says:

    Hi Amit

    HR friendship at work is essential for enhancement of teamwork, approachability and customer relations with key stakeholders. Key stakeholders are the employees, employee representatives, management, government and shareholders. However, it is important to note that one has to manage the nature and extent of friendship with the stakeholders.

    The friendship should not compromise efficient, effective and impartial execution of duty by the HR practitioner. If anything, it has to improve on delivery effectiveness with any key stakeholders. The friendship should not be left to abuse, to ensure business principles and corporate ethics prevail.



  • Avinash says:

    Hr Should have Behavior like leader not friend…..

  • Norbert says:

    I do agree with you Amit, about how to prevent going overboard. The difficulty however is that sometimes the workplace is just unfairly tensed against you. The staff think you don’t care about their welfare, and Management think and you don’t care about the finances of the organisation. You are either compelled to vent your anger on someone or someone to confide in.
    But appropriate levels of friendship is good for your personal wellbeing and that of the organisation.

  • Tina says:

    I strongly believe that HR should be friendly at work place. HR’s main function is to manage people. Proper management can only happen if HR is able to mix with the employees and gain their faith and motivate them.

    HR is the connecting link between the employees and the Management. So, they should be friendly at the work place. Being friendly, will help the Management to know the employees/their problems/issues/expectations properly and sort it out before it is too late. If HR is friendly, the employees feel free to communicate their issues and expectations to the Management.

    If HR is friendly at workplace, both employees and the Company can be benefited.



  • Tshering says:

    HR should be friendly with all employees and approachable but not too close with any one at work place…!!!

  • Jane Jaxon says:

    This is a tough line to walk. I was hired as the first/only HR person at a company with co-founders focused on being a best place to work … meaning I don’t need to be the “no” person so many companies ask HR to be.

    The vast majority of the company is made up of truly awesome people in my age group – people I’d enjoy forming close bonds with. Being HR doesn’t preclude me from having a basic friendship with any of my co-workers. I’ve done my best to foster friendships and make sure people know 1) I care about them and how they are doing and 2) That they can come to me. This has paid personal and professional dividends. I hear about issues and can start taking steps to address them before they bubble up. If people didn’t trust me, I’d have a much harder time doing my job effectively.

    But I’ve also drawn a line. For me, that means I’ll go to company events and have a beer, but I’m heading home at ten and I’m most definitely not coming out for a second leg of fun. I kindly turn down invites to personal events (and explain why … “Listen, nobody feels comfortable letting loose HR hanging around.”). It also means that you can vent to me to a point, but I will stop it and redirect when it needs to be addressed with someone else or gets anywhere near the gossip/bullying line. My co-workers have respected this line.

    The most difficult thing for me is when someone describes frustration with a manager or their job, but doesn’t want me to escalate it. There are cases where I know I can help affect change by relaying those comments, but that will also likely cost me someone’s trust. That’s always a tough situation.

  • Amit Bhagria says:

    Hi Jane,

    I appreciate the way you maintain a balance between personal and professional commitments and that you know where to draw the line.

    There are instances when people will share with you their feelings and thoughts and there can be 2 reasons for this a) They just want to vent their emotions in front of you so that they feel relaxed and b) They would like you to take some action. In case of option (b) even if they don’t want you to esclalate, however you as an HR is the custodian of the policies and procedures and if you feel that something is violating the company’s values and policies, its your duty to escalate it to the relevent authorities. I know it is not an easy situation to handle, but then managing these challenges make you a more responsible and an efficient HR manager.

    And even if you don’t escalate it don’t get frustrated. Patience is also the key for any HR Manager.

    All the best.


  • Lydia says:

    At the risk of repeating the sentiments already expressed above, yes HR should definitely be friendly with all employees equally, as long as it does not impair HR’s ability to apply the virtues of consistency, fairness and employers ability to meets its revenue-generating goals.

    There is more to be gained in forging a warm and caring relationship with the employees
    than costs. My experience in HR has been that a great majority of a seasoned workforce seem to understand that HR’s main goal is to protect Management’s interests, hence many of them approach HR with a certain level of caution and expectations, which automatically eliminates the need for HR to be on Management’s defense. These kinds of employees can be easy to keep close as friends. However if you encounter a person who does not respect your obligation in the HR role, then the reasonable thing would be to keep your friendship thin and monitored.

  • Nicole says:

    HR should be friendly, but not form friendships. A good comparison might be a therapist.

    HR people need to be able to get employees talking about real issues so they must be approachable. They have to communicate ways to handle those issues in a caring and sensitive fashion.

    In the long run, your therapist isn’t your friend and just like you wouldn’t want to see someone with financial investments in a company do oversight for that company… you don’t want to see someone with emotional investments in an employee do oversight of that employee.

  • Thanks Nicole for coming up with such a good example. As I have already mentioned, HR need to be on the edge while he is interacting with his people.

  • SOTHINI MOYO says:

    Hie Amit,

    An HR having a friend is much allowed. This means that the friendship should be boarder. He is a professional and knows to imply the professionalism. Gone are the days when HR only focused on only the corporate strategy of the employer regardless of his followers.

    It is encouraged that at work place good communication should be there, referred to as Open door policy.


  • Hi Amit,
    An HR should have healthy relationship (friendship) with employees because he needs to know how the people feel about their job and also bearing in mind that management issues are meant to be treated confidential and not exposed to the employees.
    When wants is put in discipline it is not because the employer or HR hates the employee but rather it is because the HR cares about the person and wants just the best from him and the institution.
    Monjuh Anthony

  • Ashwin Mistry says:

    I strongly believe that HR person must do work with friendly nature with the employees as well as workers also. But there are some boundary for the maintain the friendship.I personnel believe that if HR people work with friendly nature nobody listen any instruction will take in lightly.
    Yes , but whenever the emotional attachment ia require it is there and how to maintain that it depends on how is tackle the particular issue by HR People.

    All employees and department has their own important but HR Deptt much more role play with in the organisation towards the favor in Organisaion benefit and employees also.

  • Great article Amit! As with anything, maintaining a healthy balance is always key. I appreciate your recognition of the fact that it’s imperative for HR to build relationships with employees and truly become trusted advisors. It’s just always a good idea to keep your eyes and ears open and maintain your position and code of ethics as an HR professional.

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