Managing an employee? Leave the friendship at home

two female colleagues having an enjoyable discussion

Don’t mix business with pleasure.

That applies to the employer-employee relationship. Many people make the mistake of treating their employees like friends, and it almost always ends up causing problems.

Reasons why not to be friends with employees

When you’re friends with someone, it’s difficult, to be honest with them.

You might feel like you’re hurting their feelings or that you’re being too blunt. This can lead to a skewed view of their performance and make it hard to provide them with the feedback they need to improve.

And if things go wrong? It can be pretty awkward to have to discipline or fire your “friend”. Suddenly, all those lunches and after-work drinks become a lot less fun. Friendship in the workplace is simply not scalable. It’s hard enough to manage employees without having to worry about maintaining a friendship as well.

Common scenarios that should be avoided

When it comes to the employer-employee dynamics, there are a few scenarios that should be avoided to maintain a clear line of authority.

For example, don’t let the employee come by your office and shoot the breeze for an hour every day. This will only blur the boundaries and make it difficult for them to take your direction seriously.

This can also easily lead to nepotism, which is a conflict of interest. Remember that you are their boss, not their buddy and that you need to maintain a level of professionalism at all times. By keeping these things in mind, you can create a healthy working relationship that will be beneficial for all.

How to keep up a professional relationship
colleagues shaking hands

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As the boss, you need to stay professional in your dealings with your employees.

This is a business relationship, not a personal one. Here are some tips for how to keep things professional:

  • You’re in charge, so don’t be afraid to assert yourself.
  • Your employees are there to do a job, not be your friends.
  • It’s best not to get too “close” to your employees—you don’t want them (or others) to feel uncomfortable.
Benefits of maintaining healthy boundaries

Maintaining healthy boundaries with your employees has a lot of benefits.

For one, it prevents preferential treatment or the appearance of impropriety. If you’re already friends with an employee, set boundaries so that you’re not crossing any lines.

Another benefit of maintaining healthy boundaries is that it allows employees to feel appreciated. They know that you respect them and see them as professionals, which can be motivating.

In short, you should never treat an employee like a friend. You are their supervisor, and as such, should maintain a professional relationship. But if you are already friends with a few, maintaining healthy boundaries prevents employees from feeling taken for granted. They know that you value their contributions and that you’re not just taking advantage of their friendship to get them to work more.