Be a Boss Not a Buddy

In life, you have best friends, close friends, acquaintances, drinking buddies and work friends. The latter is usually relegated to peers whom you work with, not being “best buds” with your boss, or if you’re a boss, being buddies with your employees.

Everyone wants to be well-liked. It’s human nature. As a boss, while that sentiment may still ring true, being well-liked isn’t always the easiest thing to achieve. Overcompensating by shifting the focus to being a buddy rather than a strong leader who is respected can have its disadvantages.

All Relationships Are Not Created Equal

Friendship has a very different color palette than that of the boss-employee relationship. Friends are equals. Bosses are at a higher pay grade than employees and are responsible for that employee’s growth and productivity. When employees and bosses are friends, it may be hard to distinguish the genuine nature behind someone’s motives in the work environment. Friends are friends because they connect on a personal and social level, not because they have ulterior motives or want to get ahead.

Playing Favorites

When a boss is buddies with his employees, favoritism can result. That can take promoted employees from friend to the least liked person in the office. As with friends, a boss’ relationship with his or her employees is going to be different with everybody. In the work environment, the element of choice is somewhat eliminated in terms of who you’re surrounded by. In life, you choose your friends. And favoritism can go the other way, backfiring when
it proves hard to leave business, especially bad business, at the door when you’re off the clock and it’s time to exist as friends, no longer as boss-employee.

Be Social…But Not Too Social

Social work functions are inevitable. As a boss, you’ll either want to, or be required to, make an appearance. Along similar lines of not playing favorites with employees while in the office, a boss shouldn’t play favorites at social gatherings outside the office, either. At work events like Happy Hour, luncheons and other industry functions, a boss should be sure to mingle and socialize with all employees equally.

Lead the Charge

As a boss, it is possible to be a generous, caring person while still keeping the focus on work. Employees look to their bosses for guidance, expertise and motivation, much like players look to their coach or patients look to their therapist or doctor. Players and patients don’t even strive for deep meaningful friendships in those scenarios, they want a leader.

As a boss, the focus should remain on work and not sustaining and maintaining personal relationships within the workplace. Work is work and play is play, and time spent at work needs to remain focused on work. In terms of the interpersonal, interoffice relationships formed, both boss and employee need to interact and coexist as human beings, but they must work together to complete a common goal, which is why both were hired in the first place. There should be mutual respect, courtesy and friendliness.

The Inside Track

Bosses are privy to more inside information than their employees. Friendship is supposed to be about honesty, and that isn’t always possible when a boss is supposed to withhold or put off sharing information with their employees.

Evaluations, managing progress, motivating change, and facilitating that change are all things expected of a boss. They are not necessarily things expected of your friends. Hiring and salary information should never be shared from a boss to an employee not directly affected by the information being shared.
For a boss, firing or letting employees go is never easy. When it’s a friend, it’s especially hard. Being a boss means doing what needs to be done to make the business grow. Sometimes that means doing things that aren’t easy like reprimanding employees when they’ve done something wrong, or making tough decisions like pay-cuts. When friendship is in the mix, it’s hard not to feel like it’s personal.

Working off of gut instincts and chemistry aren’t the best practices to apply in boss-employee relationships. A boss should strive to be a well-respected leader and the type of boss employees respect; someone they feel inspired by and proud to work for. It’s inevitable that a boss will like some employees more than others. However, it is vital that he or she strike the right balance with clearly defined relationships that are based upon performance, respect and the commitment to work together toward reaching a common work goal. The result will be a great working work relationship.

Story by Megan McClure

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