Ten years ago I didn’t have to worry about whether it was appropriate to be friends with my boss. Whether it’s going out for drink after work or simply being “Facebook friends,” most of my bosses were much older than I and social media wasn’t the social conglomerate it is today. However, over the past five years, I’ve struggled to strike a balance on what’s considered appropriate when it comes to relationships in the workplace.
This article is less about tangible action and more about conversation. 2 years ago, when I took a position as manager of a national background screening company, I took a firm stance to not friend my coworkers, employees, or supervisors outside of work, which included social media. I do believe it made me more secluded from coffee talk conversation but ultimately I felt more in control of my professional/personal brand in the workplace. Please note, I’m the same person in both professional and personal settings. I just came to the conclusion that I could control the fear of getting too close or too invested to make sound decisions.
How hard is it for an employee to make difficult decisions when you’re so close to the individuals you work with it? Could affect your decision-making abilities? Here’s an example, in 2014, I made the decision to resign from a position with an organization I absolutely loved. I had become so close to the people I was working with that it was so hard to leave my position even though it was right for me to move on. I believe because of this experience, it’s why I drew such a hard line in my next position.
Here are a few takeaways I’ve realized over the last few years and even the last few days as I was researching with others their thoughts regarding this topic. There are three components we believe play a role in determining the level of closeness you should have with your boss or coworkers.
Depending on your culture, it could affect whether or not you find value in the closeness of your coworkers. I believe there is tremendous value in building relationships and understanding what makes each other tick. Also, when everyone in the organization is mission-minded and focused on the vision of the organization then decision making is not affected by relationships but driven by what’s best for the organization.
Maturity of Manager
I believe this is why I’ve struggled to find balance. Being a young manager, I’m still developing my skills and ability to address hard conversations. I thought, if they are my friends then the hard conversations would be easier and they wouldn’t get mad at me. Wrong. Even when you’re friends with your supervisor, there needs to be a level of respect for each other’s position. You respect the supervisor and the supervisor respects you. When both the supervisor and employee respect each other, then it’s easier to have difficult conversations.
Are you simply trying to get to know your supervisor because you believe it will make your job easier or does your personality align with the individual? There are supervisors I’ve had where I wanted to hang with them because they aligned with my interests and beliefs. But you need to check your motives first before trying to invite your supervisor’s family over for a BBQ. If you truly want to be friends, it can happen but requires the balance to be met with maturity.
This conversation can be lengthy with many ideas. What are your thoughts regarding workplace balance? Share your thoughts.