18/04/2024
Friends vs employees

Friends vs. Employees: What Do You Do When the Lines Blur?

As a business owner, you have to consider the friends vs employees debate. Anyone who knows me knows that I pride myself on putting a lot into my work. I dedicate time, energy, finances, resources and a lot of my mental capacity to my professional life. I do this because I love being an entrepreneur. There’s no denying that I enjoy being successful in my business endeavours, and who doesn’t? This dedication has meant that I’ve become friends with a lot of people I’ve worked with, both colleagues and employees, even when I am the employer.

After working closely with someone for a number of years – seeing them day in and day out from the recruitment stage, right through to them climbing the ranks – you are bound to form a deep connection. A relationship can easily turn from employer and employee, to friend and friend. I have been fortunate that many of my business acquaintances have turned into long time, trusted friends over the years. I certainly wouldn’t change that. But, what happens when the lines blur?

If you don’t take the time to put boundaries into place, keeping the lines between friend and employee clear becomes increasingly more difficult. As a business owner and boss, you need to remain in charge. This is the case even if your employees have become treasured friends.

Should You Encourage Your Employees to Become Your Friends?

As an employer, you have probably experienced moments when your employees start to feel more like friends, or even family. This can be a sign of being a respected, approachable and trusted employer. It’s not uncommon for close and bonded teams to form strong connections, especially if they are united by shared goals and the unique challenges of the specific workplace. Though creating a positive working environment is hugely important, it’s essential to recognise the potential hurdles that come when the lines between friends and employees begin to blur. 

There are a lot of benefits to friendships forming at work. For example, they can improve collaboration, communication and team morale. When employees share a sense of camaraderie with their employer, they are more likely to go above and beyond to support the business. They are more likely to share their ideas openly. They are more likely to put their all into reaching common goals. Strong friendships at work can also boost employee engagement and job satisfaction, leading to increased productivity and a positive company culture.

But, blurring the lines between being friends and being someone’s employer can lead to various challenges. One of the primary concerns is the potential impact on decision making and favouritism. If you are too close to your employees, you might find it more difficult to remain impartial. You might struggle to make the right decisions for the business. 

The Friends vs Employees Debate Doesn’t Have to Negatively Impact Your Business

To maintain a healthy balance between friendship and professionalism, you need to set clear boundaries and expectations from the outset. You should encourage open communication. You should clearly highlight the distinction between personal and work related matters. I find that emphasising the importance of professionalism and respect in the workplace is key, even if there are personal relationships present. You need to remain in charge and respected, even when you’re working with friends. 

This is key, as even in the closest of friendships, disagreements can arise in the workplace. You don’t want these conflicts spilling over into your personal life. As an employer, it’s crucial to address any issues promptly and impartially, and from the perspective of an employer. Ensure that your conflict resolution processes are transparent and fair to everyone, so all employees feel heard and valued. This way, there’s no risk of anyone claiming favouritism.

Something that I have learned when handling friends vs employees as a business owner is that maintaining confidentiality is paramount. Employees need to understand the importance of respecting your privacy and the privacy of colleagues, and not sharing sensitive information outside of the workplace, simply because you are friends. This also means not sharing personal information at work, anything that was shared on a personal level. 

While employees becoming friends can create a positive atmosphere, it’s important to make sure that it doesn’t compromise productivity in the workplace. It’s not uncommon for employees to take advantage of being on good terms with their employer, especially as far as leniency goes. There is nothing wrong with being friends with employees. But, make sure to encourage a healthy balance between work and social interactions. The more the lines blue, the harder it is to keep your professional and personal relationships separate. 

Navigating the Friends vs Employees Challenge

Managing friends in the workplace requires finesse and clear communication. It might be something that takes you a while to get right. It’s natural for people to make friends at work, and this includes employees and employers, it’s important to maintain a professional and objective work environment at all times.

By setting clear boundaries, handling conflicts fairly, and promoting inclusivity, you can encourage a harmonious workplace where friendship and productivity coexist. 

How do you make sure the lines between friends vs employees don’t blur?

Written by
Scott Dylan
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Scott Dylan

Scott Dylan

Scott Dylan

I’m Scott Dylan, Inc & Co Co-Founder. I oversee the company's strategic direction and work to acquire and invest in distressed and viable companies, helping businesses improve their business processes and setting strategic directions.

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