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Employee or friend?

In my last post, I talked about the need to respect your employees as human beings and to understand their needs. But just how far can you go with this?

One of the things I learned the hard way is not to get too friendly with my employees. It is vital that your employees understand that they are there to work and that your shop is not a social club. There is a balance that needs to be established between being respectful and, at the same time, remaining slightly detached.

The problem here is that if your employees get to feeling like you are their friend, there is a tendency for them to start feeling like it is OK to arrive late or take a longer break or taking for granted a thousand other possible things that should not be taken for granted and not have to worry about you getting upset with them. After all, you are buds, right?

This is simply human nature. It's not like the employee willfully starts to take advantage of you, although this certainly has precedent. It's more like a natural segue that happens without anyone really even noticing it until it becomes severe enough to be a problem. During that time, resentment is likely to have built up in your mind, again without your really even being aware of it. When the situation becomes bad enough that you actually have to call the employee on the carpet, you are probably going to be coming to the table with a feeling of being taken advantage of and the employee is going to be feeling shocked, or at least surprised that you have a problem with him (or her). He or she may simply be unaware of the issue or feel like you are violating your friendship in some way.

From this position, it is difficult for everyone to resolve the situation without losing face and that is a no win situation all around. It is far better for you, as the employer, to not allow such a situation to develop in the first place by remembering that, no matter how closely you work with someone, no matter how valued they are to you and your business, you are the boss and, therefore, the one responsible for maintaining the balance between being respectful and having friends.


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