The season of company picnics is an opportunity to strengthen ties with those you manage, says Arlyn J. Melcher, management professor at Southern Illinois University. Especially for people supervising diverse groups, semi-formal, company-sponsored events such as softball games can help break down barriers and show that you are open and available. Avoid clumping with peers at such gatherings, Melcher advises, or risk being seen as standoffish. On the other hand, socializing with those you supervise can be fraught with peril, as possibility for misunderstandings rises in informal settings. So, while rewards for socializing with subordinates may outweigh risks at official outings, you may decline an employee’s personal invitation to an after-hours hot-tub party. “Be friendly,” advises Melcher, “but not intimate.”