Should I be friendly with my staff? What are the boundaries?

Having positive relationships with your staff is key. Being approachable and easy to communicate with will ensure that staff feel like they can approach you to discuss both personal and work-related matters. This will encourage staff loyalty and create a less stressful environment, leading to greater productivity. But it is important though to ensure that you set clear boundaries with your staff and to draw a line between being friendly and being ‘friends’.

Keeping it professional

As a manager and their employer, immediately you are the superior within the workplace. There will be times when you may have to make unpopular decisions and enforce company policies and being able to do this without the concern of affecting friendships is very important. There is also the risk that a friend may feel that their relationship with you negates their need to follow your instructions. They may feel that they are entitled to different, if not preferential, treatment.

If you do choose to have friendships with staff, you mustn’t be seen to be treated anyone preferentially. Your role as an employer is to treat all employees fairly and consistently. Being overly friendly with some staff and not others could lead to claims of unfair treatment from staff whom you are not as friendly with. This may even happen unconsciously as your friendship may colour your judgment. Ultimately, this could lead to staff losing their respect for you as their manager or simply no longer trusting you as an employer.

Professional boundaries

It is important that you also pay heed to these boundaries. There are times when the workplace can become very stressful and these are the times that we choose to turn to friends as we seek to unburden ourselves. Over-sharing with friends who are also employees may be very risky. Sharing details about the business or other employees is not only unprofessional but may also lead to difficult situations if this private information is shared.

There will also be some members of your team who naturally choose not to develop friendships in the workplace, especially not with their employers. It is important to consider this and ensure that you are respecting the boundaries that your employees want to establish. Being overly familiar or too friendly could cause staff to feel uncomfortable. They may also feel obliged to be friendly with you simply because you are their boss. Ensuring that you are cordial but not too friendly will enable you to develop positive relationships without making staff feel uncomfortable.

Getting support

If you would like advice on how to create professional boundaries within your organisation whilst still engaging and having positive relationships with your staff get in touch to chat with one of our professional HR advisors.

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