Most of the time our offices are our second home and therefore the people who work alongside us are inevitably going to befriend us. They become our allies. Also, you shouldn’t despise going to work and having friends there makes for a more relaxed and homely atmosphere. But just how relaxed or professional should friendships be at work? Should a manager or team leader befriend his/her subordinates? OR rather befriend people on the same level in an organisation? Is there a massive difference between social friends and work friends? What happens when the lines blur between being a friend and suddenly being the boss? In this article we discuss how leaders should manage friendships at work in order to avoid awkward situations.
Managing Friendships at Work – 5 Pointers
Some of the strongest relationships form at work, but if you are, for example, promoted in a managerial position and your friend remains on another level in the company’s hierarchy, how do you manage this? It makes it difficult if you are expected to evaluate your friend’s performance. How about if you have to reprimand them? Good relationships are built on mutual respect, trust, and good communication. Consider these 5 pointers to successfully manage your friendships at work:
1. Always stay true and authentic
If your co-workers are your true friends, they will be rooting for you, and support you. They will be proud of you for getting a promotion and stand-by you. It is up to you to remain unchanged and to keep being yourself. Don’t let the promotion or success go to your head. There is a fine line between various new aspects you will have to deal with both in your professional and social roles when you suddenly get promoted. Be true and be yourself.
2. Create a safe space, but remain professional and fair
If something awkward or difficult happens, remain confident, assertive and professional. Always address the situation directly but create a safe space for your friend to express themselves. Practice active listening and communicate issues clearly. Address the problem and refrain from attacking the person. Come up with solutions that are fair to all parties involved. Fairness is of utmost importance across board.
3. Develop your people skills
Develop your emotional intelligence, self-awareness and your people skills. If you get comfortable with your own, and your friends’ emotions; you will be able to be supportive, compassionate and handle situations with empathy.
4. Establish clear boundaries
Relationships will get tested and friends will explore their boundaries. Make sure you communicate clear boundaries from the start and understand that you don’t have control over other people’s reactions. This might sound uncaring, but don’t become garbage trucks for other people’s issues. If people know where they stand with you and still react negatively in a certain way, then that reaction is on them, not you.
5. Avoid gossip
Do not engage in any gossip. Not between managers and not between manager and friend. It is extremely unprofessional and will ruin relationships. There is an old saying which goes: “if you don’t have something good to say, rather don’t say anything at all.” Live by that rule and your new co-workers as well as your old work-friends will have the utmost respect for you.
Being part of a business with people who are in constant interaction with one another on an everyday basis, often leads to real friendships. While this is inevitable and probably nothing wrong with co-workers developing close relationships, friendships between becoming a boss suddenly while the other staff member stays on the same level are a bit unusual.
During these relationships, leaders should be very careful of how they conduct themselves. There are lines that should not be crossed, and balance is essential when befriending co-workers.
The Mindspa Institute offers various courses that assist in the development of leaders and managers in leadership skills to cope with these types of challenges.