The Balance between Being a Boss and a Buddy

Managing employees is tricky. You want your employees to like you, but also respect you and do what you ask them to do. Spending more time with coworkers than with your own family makes it easy to form close relationships, but when your employees see you as a friend first, and a boss second, it creates an imbalance in the workplace and can jeopardize your authority.

Having a relaxed atmosphere is healthy for morale, but it’s the manager’s responsibility to uphold boundaries, maintain a professional relationship with employees, and keep the workplace fair and collaborative. I am going to share some tips that can help you balance being a boss while fostering an honest and trusting relationship with your employees.

Be a Leader, Not a Buddy

It’s not uncommon for new managers to be overly friendly and then struggle to discipline employees when they break the rules. Your job as a manager is to guide, support, and keep accountability and consistency throughout the team. Discipline and accountability are what keeps the workplace fair and balanced, so everyone feels safe and treated equally. Effective discipline comes from a place of genuinely wanting to help, and it’s the manager’s responsibility to support employees to do their best. Accountability enables you to develop an influential relationship with your employees that will have them telling their future grandkids about how much you helped them grow.

Leadership is different from wanting to be liked and comes with greater responsibility and skill to course-correct employees for the good of the team and the company. Not needing to be liked doesn’t mean you need to be unlikable–it means you are confident enough to lead a team without letting personal concerns get in the way.

Relationships vs. Friendships

Getting to know your employees on a personal level is a key ingredient in uncovering their talents and understanding their motivation. Knowing important things like their birthday, how many kids they have, and showing sympathy when there is an injury or sickness in their family sends the message to your employees that you care about them as people and not just as employees. Knowing what lines not to cross when building relationships with employees keep you from blurring the line between buddy and boss.

Though it may seem harmless, forming social relationships with your employees is not a good idea. If coworkers view you as being friends with certain employees, it can negatively affect your status as a fair manager or supervisor. Attending an employee’s baby shower is being supportive, but going to a dinner party is crossing the line into friendship. Avoid attending certain social events with employees outside of work unless it’s a company event. Social media is another area to avoid becoming friends with employees. It’s not appropriate to see everything going on with your employees, and you shouldn’t open a window to your personal life to them either, it’s not worth the risk.

Be Professional, Not Personal

Being a leader can be lonely because you have to shoulder confidential information while your employees get to gossip and share their life stories with you and each other. A manager or supervisor has access to the big picture of operations and a higher understanding of all the moving parts and sharing that sensitive corporate information with employees will only confuse them as they attempt to understand it from their level of involvement.

A good rule of thumb for managers and supervisors is: Don’t share anything with your employees that you wouldn’t want every person in the company to know. Don’t discuss your personal or professional problems with staff or any confidential company information under any circumstances. A clear line must be drawn to protect employees from trying to process information outside of their pay range or will take away from their productivity.

Be Consistent

Asserting your role as a manager means you need to make clear decisions consistently with every one of your employees. Extroverted employees who talk a lot can easily believe they have a better relationship with you than introverted employees, and it is your responsibility to keep a balance by treating all employees equally. Checking in with every employee will keep communication open and create fairness and peace in the workplace.

Acknowledge everything. Saying thank you when you see someone pick up trash or giving a friendly reminder to the person who left their lunch dishes in the break room shows that you are aware of what is going on in the work environment. Keeping your comments, compliments, and corrections kind and casual will come across as being a caring leader instead of a micromanager.

In conclusion–as a manager or supervisor, there is nothing wrong with being friendly with your employees but being friends with them creates an imbalance that can damage your reputation as a leader. Being confident, kind, and communicative with all your employees will build strong and supportive relationships with your team and set the example of appropriate leadership.

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