As a boss, one advantage to having friendships with your employees is that you have a strong, positive relationship with each of them. You understand what motivates your staff, because you’ve learned about their families, their interests, their goals in life. And employees with a strong connection to their managers are more likely to work longer hours and be loyal to the company.
However, in order to be a good manager, you must be careful to distinctly define the boundaries between yourself and your staff. Here are some points to remember:
- Clarify the relationship. To maintain the respect of your employees while being friends with them, you must be direct about the nature of your business relationship. This means being clear about what the goals are, how your employees are to help you accomplish them, and what they can expect from you. By communicating these things clearly, you curtail the risk that an employee can misinterpret your friendship and behave in an unprofessional manner.
- Be social — to a degree. In most offices, there's usually a lot of social mingling, whether it’s a Friday lunch, drinks after work, or an industry function. It’s natural for managers to be a part of that. Just remember to socialize with everyone, be careful with the alcohol, and don’t be the last one at the party. Also, keep socializing at the office to a minimum. You want to ensure that you are respected as well as liked.
- Don’t play favorites. One of the worst mistakes you can make is to favor certain employees in the workplace. Your other staff members will quickly learn to distrust you, and productivity will suffer. If you’re not sure if you’re showing favoritism, think about how much you like each employee. What does each person contribute to the business? Then ask yourself how you treat each of these employees. If your treatment correlates more to how you feel than to what they do, you need to change your behavior.
- Keep it on the Q.T. No matter how close you are to pals in the office, you have to resist the temptation to give them the inside scoop. Confidential work information like salaries, hiring and firing decisions, and quarterly earnings must never be shared when socializing, or you’ll lose credibility.
- Face the firing line. Sometimes an employee who is also your friend is not performing up to par. You may not want to face it, but for the sake of your company, you need to take a cold, hard look at how this person’s behavior is impacting employee morale, work schedules, customer relations, time spent fixing mistakes, and most importantly, the bottom line. In this case, you must be this person’s employer first and friend second. If you can help this staff member return to being a productive member of your team, then do so. If not, you need to let the person go before more damage is done.
- Don’t fake it. Maybe you want to try to be friends with all your employees, because you think that would strengthen your team. While some management training courses stress that bosses should ask their staff about their personal lives, such as their weekend plans, their families, or their children, such efforts can backfire if the manager is viewed as being insincere. It’s okay to ask occasional questions of staff, but don’t make a big production out of it. Getting to know people takes time.