Jan 06

MANAGEMENT MINUTE: Walk the line between friend and supervisor

walk-the-lineJuggling friendships in the workplace is particularly hard if you’re in an authoritative position. You don’t want to be the unapproachable, mean supervisor — but you can’t let your friendships interfere with your ability to be a good manager either.

You’ll find that the key to most management situations is balance, and walking the middle ground between supervisor and friend is no exception. This isn’t to say that friendships at work are all bad. You can gain good connections and land better jobs based on the friends you make. But it’s best to keep work friendships casual instead of close, recommends Cheri Swales in her article titled Being Friendly Vs. Being Friends.

Here’s some advice we’ve gleaned from Swales to help you keep work friendships advantageous — not poisonous:

  • Set ground rules. If you’ve established friendships before you take on a management role, make sure you talk to your work friends honestly about what you expect from them — and what they can expect from you. You won’t play favorites, and you’ll want your friends to keep work and personal matters separate, says Swales.
  • Keep the playing field even. To keep up your end of the bargain, you must monitor yourself. Make sure that you’re treating every employee fairly and equally. This means that you’re giving big opportunities to the best-qualified employees, despite whether you’re friends. Tip: If you’re concerned that you can’t put aside your bias to make a fair decision, ask an outside party to help, recommends Swales.
  • Be cautious with your trust. Don’t spill your deepest secrets to a work friend you’ve known for only a short time. Instead, build a good foundation of trust, suggests Swales. Another way to get a sense of who you can confide in is to watch how employees interact with one another and who other employees seem to trust.
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Of course you want to forge relationships in the place where you spend most of your time. But venture outside your company for closer friendships, recommends Swales. That way you don’t have to worry too much about overstepping bounds.
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