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For years, management teams around the world have been told to treat their employees as people who work beneath them. By asserting your authority as a manager, you are showing your employees who is in charge and that you take your role as a leader seriously – seriously enough to expect people to follow. Thankfully, this mindset of ‘bosses and underlings’ is finally fizzling out into a mindset of equality and workplace balance.
Friendships in the workplace should be encouraged, rather than discouraged, though there should always be boundaries. No matter the rapport you have with your employees, there will always be those who are uncomfortable about things like social media links outside of work. That doesn’t mean that people don’t wish to form friendships, just that there is still a hierarchy and no one wishes to be judged on their personal life, which is difficult for people to do when in a position of employer and employee. We’ve all seen how social media can cause ripples in the workplace, especially as any smart employer will do a search online before they hire someone onto the team. Tradition may tell us that friendships in the workplace is a bad idea, but should you really pay attention to traditions that are years old?
To be able to see your employees as equals and not just people you pay to work for you, you have to redefine what friendship in the workplace actually looks like. Maintaining a good, open relationship with your employees does mean being open to a friendship with them that goes beyond banter in the office. You have two types of friends in life: the friends you have outside the workplace and the ones you have in the office, it’s just that the dynamic for each group is a little different. There are tons of articles out there about how to make employees happy and engaged at work, and you can even read a blog post called ’27 Employee Engagement Ideas For A More Productive Team’ to help you to get the motor revving under your staff. While you’re doing that, you can build a wonderful rapport with them as people and learn the quirks that can develop into a friendship.
While a friendship with staff can build in the office, you need to stay away from being tempted to add them on social media. Think of your staff and how they want to portray themselves professionally – you wouldn’t be able to separate how you feel about them in a business sense if you add them on Facebook and see their latest antics with their family or friends. Boundaries are still important in a workplace friendship, but you can still connect on LinkedIn and professional social media sites like that. The other issue with office friendships is how you manage to swap between being a boss and being a bestie. Blurring the lines with professional relationships and friendships doesn’t mean you stop treating them like an employee, or hold them above everyone else and treat them better than other people in the office. You have to find that balance and hone it so that you don’t get accused of favouritism.
One of the biggest reasons that there have been years of ‘rules’ relating to how friendships happen between management and employees is due to miscommunication in the office. No one wants to be seen as a teacher’s pet in the same way that you don’t want to be accused of attacking someone when really all you are doing is correcting a behaviour at work. This calls for transparency in the office, and a mutual accord that when it comes to business, personal feelings do not come into it. Be proactive about your workplace friendships and learn when it may be getting in the way of your ability as a manager. Life is far more bearable in the office when you get along with everyone you work with, and the key there is thinking of everyone around you like an equal.
In some cases, workplace friendships don’t survive beyond the 5pm cut off time. Office friendships are good to have for survival and to make a working day much happier. However, you have to evaluate whether you can balance work and a social life with the same people. If you can do it, you’ll know that employees are friends, not foe, and this can really help you feel content as a manager!