Anyone who has ever become a supervisor or manager knows the strain of drawing fine lines around relationships at work. Some companies have very explicit fraternization policies. Others are far more relaxed.
The size of the company can also dictate the level of relationships people are permitted to have. On one hand, smaller, more entrepreneurial start-up or emerging businesses rely upon close internal relationships to grow and thrive. Bigger, perhaps publicly traded, companies often get far more formal in their administration of HR policy because they need consistency to protect themselves from higher risks and defend themselves from an employee complaint.
The Manager’s Seat
Sitting in the manager’s seat is where all of this comes to a very personal focal point. Can you or should you become friends with any of your employees?
In a recent post, I presented a six-step framework for building high performing teams by elevating the level of trust within the team. To build trust, business leaders must provide special empathy towards their employees. The right kind of empathetic conduct may easily slip into the friend zone.
First, let’s deal with the exact context of the word “friend”. In my experience, it represents a genuine bond; some extra level of trust you don’t share with just anyone. Yet there are consequences for a manager who creates a true friendship with an employee. Here are just a few of the possible risks:
- Your judgment toward the individual can become biased
- Evaluation and compensation can be compromised
- Resentment from other employees
Genuine friendships that may have developed at work while you were in other roles may now need to be adjusted if that friend becomes a direct report.
As a leader, keeping your friend list in check doesn’t mean you need to stop being friendly. The traits that make someone friendly usually center around the whole ability to show empathy.
Empathy is the experience of understanding another person’s thoughts, feelings, and condition from their point of view, rather than from your own. You can imagine yourself in their place in order to understand what they are feeling or experiencing. Empathy facilitates prosocial (helping) behaviors that come from within, rather than being forced, so that we behave in a more compassionate manner. Although there may be a genetic basis to empathy, research suggests it is possible to boost your capacity for empathic understanding. [from Psychology Today]
Managers and leaders who increase their empathetic listening skills will rapidly improve their connection to their employees.
Question: How do you handle friendships at work? Leave a comment.
Originally posted on DougThorpe.com
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