The business world can be very political. It is important to understand certain boundaries with the people who you work with. This is especially important if you are a manager. Here are some reasons that you may not be able to be as close friends with your coworkers and employees.
You may get along great with most of your colleagues, while you are sharing an office or chatting at the water cooler. It is pretty easy to be friendly with people when there aren’t any conflicts. However, you may eventually find yourself on different sides of the fence. Some situations can pit people against each other:
- They are competing for the same job.
- A serious problem has arisen, and senior management, regulators or other investigators need to find out who is responsible. People that are responsible for the fallout may look for a scapegoat.
- There is a dispute between two different employees. Their coworkers may feel compelled to decide which one they want to take sides.
You may regret forming a close friendship with people when you are against each other. They may use any statements, which people shared with them, to shift blame or discredit them. It is a good idea to limit the type of information that you share with your colleagues if you face a conflict of interest with them down the road.
Fostering Employee Respect
Every manager needs to set professional boundaries with their employees. Here are some problems that can arise, if you create close friendships with your employees:
- They have a harder time respecting your authority. This can make it difficult to motivate them.
- You may have a difficult time sanctioning them if they make a mistake.
- You may be tempted to play favorites. This can jeopardize your standing as a manager when you are reviewed later.
- Employees that you are friends with may think that rules don’t apply to them. They may be tempted to test boundaries by showing up late or failing to do the work assigned to them.
- You may be accused of covering for your employees if one of them faces accusations down the road.
You need your employees' respect to be an effective leader. It is a good idea to be friendly and respectful of them, but you can’t be close friends.
Risk of Fallout
Friends have turmoil with each other all the time. Some friendships survive these problems while others do not. While this can be very disappointing, it can be much more difficult if you have to work with somebody.
Working with someone that you had a falling out with can be very uncomfortable. Things can be much more complicated if one of you is in a position of power over the other. Would you want an internal auditor or HR investigator being upset with you if they had to investigate your work? It could be equally uncomfortable if you were the one involved in the situation.