Friends at the office and where to draw the line

Reuters

Inevitably, friendships form in the workplace, and, oftentimes, it is impossible for employees to leave personal issues at home.

Being aware of what is going on "at home" is important, as it can impact your employees' professional lives. Yet, while we have to be in tune with our employees' personal lives, we also have to be equally aware of the drawbacks of this "friend zone".

When friendships form, here's what executives should be exceptionally watchful of and how they should manage their way through it.

1. CLIQUES ARE CORROSIVE

Allowing cliques to develop is dangerous. When a group of employees starts going out to lunch, grabbing drinks after work, gossiping and excluding others, the rest of the team may feel like anonymous, unconnected, second-class citizens (some of whom may be your best workers).

Having an office that tolerates cliques will drive these superstars out the door.

2. THIS ISN'T A COUNTRY CLUB

If overt friendships develop, perceptions of an uneven playing field can develop.

Employees "on the outs" start to feel that your chummy pals have better access to you than the rest of the team does and that those pals are more likely to receive special treatment.

3. DON'T PLAY POLITICS

Friendships make it more difficult to execute your duties as a manager. Imagine what will happen if a subordinate starts to take advantage of the relationship, showing up late to work, missing deadlines.

Will you be prepared to act, or will that person get away with things no one else does?

4. CREATE SEPARATION

You must be able to separate friendships from the execution of your duties. When the performance of one of your friends is declining, or your friend is taking advantage of the relationship and getting away with things no one else is, you must be prepared to act.

The closer friends that you are - maybe your families and spouses are friends - the more difficult this can become. However, your role as a manager is to handle these sorts of issues when they arise.

5. PROTECT YOUR PEOPLE

Safeguard a level playing field. Make yourself equally accessible to all of your team members.

Ensure that treatment is fair and consistent, and avoid talking with your friends about business issues that they otherwise would not have access to.

6. AVOID FORCED FUN

If you're passionate about golf, roller skating, professional wrestling or anything else, don't make that the key for employees to have access to you.

Appreciate that your workplace has diverse people with diverse interests. Don't force your personal passions on the team and don't make that the only (or best) way for them to have access.

7. SET BOUNDARIES

If a strong friendship grows, have a conversation. Set mutually agreed-upon boundaries.

If you're really friends, the boundaries will be accepted. If they are not accepted, then you should consider whether you're being taken advantage of.

8. SHARE THE WEALTH

You don't have to be "friends" to have a genuine interest in what's going on with all of your team members outside of work. Showing a personal interest in your employees' lives can help you be a better manager.

For example, knowing what's going on with them personally might explain a disruption in performance and allow for faster resolution.