How To Balance Professional And Social Relationships With Employees

I had a discussion with one of my colleagues the other day. He admitted that he sometimes has difficulty with managing his personal and professional relationships with employees. He would often get pretty friendly with some of them, which could create problems later on. In one instance, an employee accused him of offering more favorable treatment to his one closest buddy. My friend realized that the accusation could actually be true and his co-worker could be right.

Even if it wasn’t, the perception itself can create a problem. It is very important to find a balance between your personal and professional relationships to avoid these issues and retain employees.

My friend isn’t the only boss to encounter this problem. This is a difficult balancing act for many entrepreneurs. Here are some tips to help keep things in perspective.

Assure Everyone That You Won’t Play Favorites

Discrimination laws don’t prevent managers from giving preferential treatment to their subordinates provided it doesn’t appear that they are discriminating against a protected class.  However, you can still open Pandora’s box and create discord and distrust within the organization.

You never want to give the appearance that employees you have close relationships with will receive preference for promotions, better compensation, or more favorable assignments. Let everyone know that relationships outside working hours do not influence your decisions on these matters. Make sure that you live up to this promise.

You must be even more clear with your closer employee friends. They may believe they are entitled to a promotion or pay raise simply because of their working relationship with you. Making it clear that these decisions are made based on merit will avoid possible misunderstandings.

Be Careful With Politically Insensitive Comments

You need to be very careful making any statements that could be deemed offensive. Do not even make them with your closest friends. They could come back to bite you later. It could create discord or leave you open to expensive civil lawsuits. You also need to be clear with employees that these types of comments aren’t acceptable at work, regardless of how you may allow them to talk on their own time.

Know When To Say No To Requests

Some employees are more needy, especially when it comes to using company resources. You need to know when to say no to them. This is often the case when they request to use company resources to host a large holiday party or other event. It is important to communicate to them the logistical and financial issues with that, so you can let them know why you need to draw the line.

Hold Employees Accountable Regardless

In order to become a top manager, anyone who violates the company code of conduct needs to receive an appropriate punishment. You can’t give somebody a free pass for routinely showing up late, missing meetings, or acting inappropriately with a customer just because you are good friends during your spare time. You also don’t want to give one employee a slap on the wrist for a violation for which you gave another employee much harsher punishment.

Not only could this type of favoritism damage workplace morale, but it could also keep employees from learning their lessons and lead to other violations in the future.

Think Carefully Before Forging Very Close Relationships

It is normal for business owners to bond with people they work with every day. However, it is important to have clear boundaries for all of your relationships. In general, the only exceptions should be with employees that had strong relationships with you before worked together. Even in those situations, you need to make it clear that the relationship will need to change.

Try To Avoid Romantic Relationships

Sometimes employees fall in love with their boss and vice versa. This is always inappropriate. However, it can be very tricky. Allegations of sexual harassment and favoritism could cause numerous challenges for your company. If you do pursue any sexual relationships, you must do so very delicately and avoid casual encounters.

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