Establishing relationships in the workplace is vital to the success of any team in the office. Bosses or team leaders are taught to gain some sort of rapport with their subordinates for many reasons. Gaining an employee’s trust and getting them to work hard and diligently is directly linked to what kind of relationship you have with that employee and building teamwork in the office. However, there is a fine line between friend and employer, and crossing the line of fraternization can be detrimental to yourself and your team.
So when do close relationships with your employees start interfering with your team’s performance? Favoritism is one facet that can negatively affect your team and too close of a relationship can certainly lead to this. It’s only natural for ‘friends’, and in this case coworkers, to support one another. This includes promotions, certain perks or getting away with different rules that are put in place. If a relationship between an employer and employee becomes too personal, all of the above can be handled differently when the friendship is that strong. Even if the employee works hard and truly does deserve a promotion, your relationship will still have a negative effect. In the eyes of others, that employee, even though the promotion is warranted, looks like they received a promotion just because of their relationship with the employer.
These accusations, whether true or not, are perceived amongst your employees regardless. Even if no such favoritism is taking place, an employer’s history of past relationships will have an effect on how their employees interpret anybody’s promotion or bonus in the future. If you have a reputation as a manager that likes to get “buddy buddy” this can tarnish your ability to manage. That’s why it’s so important to maintain everyone on an even keel and treat all employees fairly. Even a slight whiff of favoritism can cause uproar within a group of coworkers.
Tension can also cause problems within a working relationship. As in any relationship, people go through phases and their relationship status can fluctuate. A rift between an employee and employer that is not work related is not only unprofessional, it also damages the camaraderie of a team. Team unity may be one of the most important aspects of being a team leader and having one or multiple distractions is counterproductive.
From what I’ve just explained, it sounds like the best decision when handling employees is keeping it as professional as possible- although that is not necessarily the case. I did say that there is a fine line between personal relationships and a boss that truly cares for their employees. It’s important to always keep it professional, but also show that you’re more than just a boss concerned with productivity. There are numerous strategies that will allow you to walk this fine line. As an employer, instead of trying to build rapport with employees individually, build the relationship with the whole team. For instance, once a month have you and your team go out for lunch, or incorporate a weekend retreat with you and your employees. Even though there are some employees that you may have more things in common with, resist friendship for the sake of the organization and the team as a whole.
Have trouble keeping the relationship with your employees at a distance? Did a close friendship in the office bring your team down in the past? Share your story with us in the comments or tweet me at @ChrisOfficer.