Creating personal relationships with each of your employees is very important, but if you are note careful, can put you in a precarious situation. It is hard to be effective when you cross that line between boss and friend. Many managers would say this situation is often exaggerated and does not cause many issues. Recent e-mails to me show that this happens more often than one might think. In some cases, employees try to be your best friend knowing that it is hard to fire a friend. And, being the best friend of the boss can have benefits. Want to the best manager you can be? Learn how a person “ticks” without being their best friend. This allows you to make solid decisions that are not clouded by emotions. There are a few simple rules to follow that will allow you to maximize your relationship with an employee without crossing the line into an area that will place you in “bad” spot.
1. Learn about the family, but not the family’s issues. Be sure you learn the name of each of your employee’s spouse. Be sure that you request to know if an employee’s spouse is hospitalized or suffers a family emergency. It is helpful to know the names and ages of the children that your employees have, but that may be impossible if you have a large staff. Encourage your employee to be the best spouse they can be. Note that time at work outweighs time at home and be cognizant of that when planning overtime on projects or making odd requests for your employees time. Having a work place that values family is important and a recent study by Forrester reveled that family friendly workplaces have a much higher rate of employee retention. For employees that are single, learn a about their mom and dad, perhaps there pets. I once held a bring your pet to work day, it was a HUGE hit! HUGE! Not a real favorite with my boss, but a real boost in inter-office moral. If you have employees that are gay it is critical that you get to know their life partner as their spouse. No matter how you may feel about their lifestyle, you must treat them fair and give them all the respect you would give a straight couple. Give respect and you will get respect. Don’t make a big deal about it, just be fair to all. If you have an employee that is dating, it is not important to know each boyfriend or girlfriends name unless your employee has been dating them for a long period of time. As a matter of note, stay very far and clear of knowing intimate details of an employees dating life. It is very easy to fall into the trap of hearing fun details of a “night on the town” or an evening of “passionate love” and wanting to hear more. These are the juicy details you do not want to hear. Now, just because you should not be hearing these details does not mean you need to stop your staff from sharing with each other. Talk around the water cooler is part of corporate America. Relationships that employees form within their counterparts, is excellent for long term repertoire and employee retention. When an employee feels that they have “family” at work they are more likely to become a long term player in your team.
2. Make note and celebrate birthdays. Set up a system in your office to recognize people on their birthday. A simple system is to have the first birthday of the year be responsible for getting the cake for the next. Collect birthday’s in advance and set this up in your office. As the boss, use your Outlook or whatever system you need, to make note of employee birthdays. Even large corporations have a way of often recognizing birthdays. Send or give a birthday card with a small handwritten note. Be sure that you do not miss one over the other. Do not give gifts of any kind on a birthday as the value of a gift can be perceived differently by different people.
3. Be aware that as the boss you have access to a lot of information. You are charged with making decisions. But, never ask another employee for advice on handling a situation with another staffer. All too often managers do this to gain support for a decision that they must make like firing an employee. This recommendation is especially true if the employee you are asking is on the same pier level as the staffer you are asking about. Besides being wholly inappropriate, it is very likely that your conversation will get back to the employee. taffer. Tever ask another employee for advice on handling anothveled that family friednly ime.have a larg
4. Limit extracurricular activities with employees. An occasional outing is very appropriate, but limit your extracurricular time with employees. There are three reasons for this, (1) Employees need time away from you (2) You need time away from your employees and (3) The more time you spend with employees “off the clock” the greater your personal relationship with them grows. You need to establish this practice in advance and not be shy about your motives. Politely decline and if pressed do not lie. Honesty is always the best policy. Explain that your experience has been that it is hard to be the best boss you can when you are a friend with your employees. If you are currently “friends’ with an employee, then you simply need to have a heart to heart chat that can take one of these two routes (1) We need to stop our extracurricular activities or at the very least limit them or (2) We need to set some clear rules as to our relationship. At work I am the boss. Period. Do not expect special treatment, etc. My experience is that option 1 will always work out better. One final note on this subject, if you do not set clear guidelines in this area, you can also be seen as playing “favorites” to one employee over the other.
5. Make holidays special. It does not take a lot of time and or money to make the holiday’s special for your team. Having hot cider one afternoon in the fall or having a $5 gift exchange is a great way to take an hour from work and have some fun. I always ask a member of the team to take on the task of a potluck around Christmas. Show your fun side and help your team realize that you are a person too. While on this subject, it is important to note that mixing parties, personnel and liquor is a disastrous recipe. Limit drinking alcohol with employees and be very careful about paying for this activity. Celebrating a victory is one thing, just going out drinking for fun is another.
6. Be careful not to give life advice. Giving life advice can put you in a precarious situation. I once had an employee that had some criminal trouble with a son and they called me in the middle of the night. While my heart told me to help, my brain kicked in and I told this person to call the police. Keeping yourself out of the middle of bad situations is smart and takes a strong will. As the boss, you often want to “save the day”. You are paid to be the leader of the group, not the savior of the group. If you do not have a corporate employee assistance program, then find the name of a good general family counsel and have it on hand for these type of situations. Do not make it a requirement, but make it an option.
7. Loaning money to employees is one of the biggest cardinal sins of all time. Enough said.
8. Dating your employees is almost as sure a disaster as loaning your employees money. “Fishing off the company pier”, as many call it, is dangerous. Not only do you put yourself in a bad spot, but you put your employee in a bad spot. Match.com says that 89% of interoffice relationships do not last. Further, once the employee’s break –up, 99% leave the job. Most companies have a policy on the books about this. If yours does not, make one yourself. Live this rule. s is almost as sure a disaster as loaning your employees money. good genreal of the night. and have some fuperiod of time.with an employee without crossing th
Use the rules above to create a buffer that allows you to have a solid relationship with each staffer and yet not cross the line into a personal relationship that may cloud your judgment. Being the boss is not an easy task. Anyone that wants your job or claims it is easy has not sat in your chair. When dealing with employee relationship issues, my father used to say, “If you know it is right, do it. If you know it is wrong, do not do it. If you are not sure if doing something is right or wrong, do not do it.” Thanks Dad.
The opinions stated in this blog are that of the author and the author alone. (C)2006