We’ve all seen the boundaries between our personal and business lives all but disintegrate. An increasing number of, we’re becoming friends with coworkers. But how about employees and bosses? As long as they be friends?
Through the years I’ve had plenty of friends which were also employees. I’ve even called a few CEOs friends. While I’m still on good terms with most of them, there are just a few I’d still enjoy getting together with, and vice versa. And I’m not at all alone for the reason that regard.
There’s no reason behind the phenomenon, but easily had to boil it right down to one sound bite, I’d call it drama. When you work closely with someone there’s always likely to be some drama. With time, that results in a whole lot of water beneath the bridge. So when it’s over, you’d both just right put it behind you and move on.
It’s nearly the same as marriage and divorce. You may stick to good terms for practical reasons. You may even stay friends. But you’re improbable to spend lots of time together after the dust settles.
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Taking the marriage analogy just a little further, I believe we’d all concur that it’s easier to have loved and lost than to haven’t loved at all. By that logic, I certainly wouldn’t dissuade anyone from being friends with employees. However in hindsight, there are several tough situations I would have handled differently easily knew then what I understand now.
It’s all fun and games until someone gets fired. It’s hard to sit a pal down and simply tell him he’s screwing up. In fact it is downright gut-wrenching to need to fire him when he’s not cutting it and may move on. However when someone you used to call buddy is vindictive and tries to reunite at you, that’s whenever your skin starts to thicken up. It’s happened certainly to me more than once. Prepare yourself.
When disruption becomes toxic. I cut my teeth within an industry that places enormous value on constructive confrontation. Healthy conflict is crucial to making smart business decisions and sometimes it gets heated. However when a worker is consistently disruptive or acts out because he thinks he’s in with the boss – to the stage where the team can’t function effectively – he’s surely got to go.
When work is similar to THE TRUE Housewives. I don’t find out about you, but my friendships have a tendency to be fun but boring. Put simply, there isn’t much drama – definitely not like everything you see on your own average reality Television show. But work is another story. There are a variety of pressures, politics and controversies. There’s even the casual envy and resentment. It could get pretty dramatic and there’s only so much a friendship may take.
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Conflicts of interest. If you’ve never been a corporate officer, i want to introduce you to an idea called fiduciary duty. This means you must act in the very best interest of the business. Believe me, there are several situations (compensation and promotions, for instance) where personal bias represents a significant conflict of interest. Yes, cronyism is rampant in bureaucracies, but I don’t buy involved with it and neither in the event you.
Boundary issues. A friendship is a partnership. Granted, one often gets the upper hand, but that’s behavioral, not organizational. Companies, alternatively, have hierarchies and there have become known reasons for that. More often than not, that’s no problem. But there will be times – challenging times – when professional boundaries and personal relationships are tested.
If you’re searching for a formula for coping with this type of thing, don’t waste your time and effort. While it’s nice to get a little foresight into situations that might easily come to pass, that doesn’t mean you can prevent them from happening. You need to be forewarned and prepare as best you can.
One thing’s for certain. Personal relationships are unpredictable. So can be business relationships. When you combine both, you get unpredictable squared.