Social situations made easy

by Gabi Anderson Courtney

social, HR, friends

It can be very tricky to walk that fine line when you are in management position; you cannot be best friends with people you are trying to manage, but on the other hand, you do not want to seem unapproachable either. So, where is the line that you need to draw with your employees?

I have experienced a lot of people making the mistake of getting too close to people at work. Becoming close friends with employees will make it very hard, or nearly impossible, for you to manage them when it comes to performance reviews, disciplinary actions, or even a task as simple as assigning work. Most people have the assumption that being friends with the boss comes with its own privileges and you will never really know if this is friendship or someone is simply trying to take advantage of you. People working together tend to, amongst other things, talk about work, and you will really need to watch that you do not accidentally pass on information that was only meant to be known by management.

You will never be able to keep a friendship like this secret, therefore all other employees will look at the one employee differently, and to a certain degree, will think of you as unprofessional. Everyone will be convinced that your friend is getting special treatment, even if this is not the case.

This is one reason that all people in management position should go through professional management training and be aware that being “buddies” with an employee is never ok. Obviously, this does not apply anymore if any party leaves the organization, but until one person has the power to advantage or disadvantage the other (even if it is not done at any level), work relationships should be just that; professional.

At the same time, you do want to be seen as approachable and friendly, but certain things you should always keep private and never discuss at work. What are these things? Well, that basics are where you live, where your children go to school, your political and religious views, any medical condition you have, and your sexuality. Your opinion on current events might intimidate people to express their views if they disagree with what you believe in. If you definitely want to give away some personal information about yourself, share the type of cuisine you enjoy, a hobby, or what sports team you follow.

Never, ever, ever be linked to any employee via social media. Sending a friend request to someone will put them in a very uncomfortable situation, and following someone will feel like an invasion of privacy. If you receive a friend or a follow request from an employee, simply ignore.

On occasions, you will be forced to socialise with employees outside the work environment, for example at the company Christmas party. Stick to the rules above and make sure that you do not get too friendly with anyone. You will have real difficulty managing them if they step out if line and you have to talk to them the next day about their conduct.

Of course, some things are unavoidable, and sometimes coincidental things can happen. Let’s say your child attends the same school as one of your employee’s child, and the kids become friends. Should you let the children play together and socialise? Absolutely yes. But make sure that you stay involved as little as possible.

There is no solution for every single situation, but use common sense, and always keep it professional.