You might feel that you’ve known one of your employees all your life and you want to befriend them, but when it comes to maintaining office relationships, this can spell disaster for your business, not to mention the impact it could have on other employees and on the workplace in general.
The consequences of getting too close to your employees
A survey conducted by Interact found that 69% of managers are often uncomfortable communicating with employees, and 37% said they don’t feel good about giving direct feedback about their employees’ performance if they think they might respond negatively to the comments.
Case in point: don’t be too friendly with your employees. That way, you won’t have to worry about any kind of backlash, or should it come to that, you will be able to handle it smoothly and professionally without any personal feelings or biases getting in the way.
If you consider how important employee engagement is and how engagement affects every aspect of your business (profits, customer service, loyalty, etc.), this statistic is incredibly scary: Managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement.
They are overwhelmed and overworked, but this is something that can’t be ignored. Employees look up to their managers for training and guidance, and if they don’t get it from them, they’re guaranteed to be disengaged.
Who an employee’s manager is and how they’re trained to handle certain situations (feedback, recognition, time off, etc.) makes a huge difference. So, the bottom line: don’t get too personal or friendly with your employees. Once the line blurs between friendliness and professionalism, you’re going to have a tough time handling day-to-day situations.
How to have a good relationship with employees without overstepping the mark
Set clear boundaries
Understand where the line is. Be the one to show where the boundary is. Understand what topics can be discussed and what topics should be stayed away from when it comes to interacting with your workers or subordinates. If either one of you feels the urge to lock yourselves up in a meeting room and tell the other how badly the “break-up” was affecting your work – don’t!
Know what your workplace is about and what kind of relationships and conversations might be better left among your friends outside the workplace. Also, know when to share and when not to share at all. Boundaries protect everyone, but especially the business.
A coworking space is one of the best ways to show boundaries and build better trust within your business.
Be completely honest
Many people don’t realise that honesty is a key characteristic of good leaders. Having a transparent work environment builds employee trust in you and your business. They will gain confidence in your leadership.
Plus, if you are honest with them, they will be more likely to be honest with you, and when people are comfortable speaking the truth, the team will work better together overall, leading to higher productivity, and fewer issues.
Nowadays, with the rising number of start-ups and small businesses, the workplace environment can become casual and informal. Many companies are now boosting their “friendly environment” and “flexible dress codes”.
While this is great and exciting, it also blurs the line between “professional” and “friendly”.
When you’re in the office with your employees or when you’re having meetings, understand that this is the time to be “professional”. Stay away from casual conversations or unproductive tasks. Doing this can not only make sure everyone takes the workplace seriously, but it also ensures a more productive work environment, where things get done.
On the contrary, during lunch breaks or when you hang out with your staff after work, know that it is the right time and place to engage in “friendly” conversations and interactions. Of course, take note of the first tip of setting clear boundaries so you don’t run into any troubles down the line.
Remember who’s in charge
In the workplace, it’s more important to be a boss than a friend. Being too friendly can jeopardise your authority. Attempting to be friends with your employees makes providing feedback and giving performance appraisals difficult and it puts you at risk of claims of favouritism.
Your team needs a leader, not a buddy; in the end, they’ll like you more when you focus less on being liked and more on offering guidance and support. Suppressing that natural need to be liked is key.
As tempting as it may be, try not to fall into the trap of getting too close to your employees. Your employees are there for one reason only: to contribute to the business and to build their careers in the process. Keep it professional, keep it clean and keep it ‘business only’ as much as you can. Don’t be rude, be friendly, but always set boundaries from the start.
Investing in fantastic coworking space might make it a lot easier to achieve some of these all important objectives!
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