Six ways to have work friends when youre the boss

Be a consistent boss who finds the balance between authority and friendship with employees, including clarity, communication, and leadership.

David Quinn: BrightHR Social Media Manager

“I’m a friend first, and a boss second. Probably an entertainer third." - David Brent

Let’s face it, time spent with work colleagues is sometimes more time than you spend with your actual friends and family.

Ultimately the more time you spend with these people, the less they become strangers and the more you naturally become friends. This effect is only magnified when it comes to small business as the close proximity means the process is much quicker. In this situation though, the line between boss, business owner and friend can blur quickly.

As the business owner, how do you define the boundaries? You want to be friendly with your employees to get the most out of them and make them feel appreciated, but you don’t want to be so friendly that it impacts you making key business decisions. I mean, imagine having to fire people you consider as really good friends. Not very nice.

So how do you keep the boss employee relationship balanced and intact?

Be clear - Remember this is your business and you are hiring people to do a job, not to be your friends. If you are clear and direct about the person's goals within the organisation then you should be able to keep the distinction between friend and boss. That’s not to say you need to remind them every time you see them.

Communication channels - It’s probably best to separate work comms and life comms. By keeping the two separate, it means you can be contacted by your employees via email or by work phone, but you can also take some much needed time away from ‘the office’ if you need to.

Giving your employees your personal mobile for main communication is probably a mistake as it blurs the lines between home and work. That’s one of the great things about BrightHR software.
It keeps the employer/employee boundaries in place when it comes to communicating lateness or requesting leave. No more scrambling for early morning calls about the trains being late, or trying to text replies as you wipe the sleep from your face.

Here at BrightHR, my team uses Slack for communicating between us. It keeps emails from being clogged by general chit chat, but importantly it comes with an 'away' option. This means your team can see if you're free to chat or reply, or if you're offline and not prepared to talk shop.

Keep an eye on favouritism - There will always be people in the office that you get on with much better than others. That’s just human nature, but, as the boss you have to be mindful of how this could be perceived. Others may take this as a sign of workplace favouritism and may end up resenting both you and your ‘favourite worker’. Be mindful not to show any one person preferential treatment and treat everyone fairly. This way there can be no disputes when it comes to things such as promotions, redundancies or dismissals.

The social media conundrum - Do you or don’t you connect with your employees on social media channels? That is the question. For many managers I’ve known,it’s a strict no. However it’s really up to you. If you feel you can remain professional being the boss and an online friend, then by all means go for it. Here at BrightHR, friendships on personal Twitter is welcomed and it’s certainly the first time I’ve been friends with my CEO on Facebook.

Fraternising with the staff - Socialising with your staff can be a good thing. It builds trust and forms bonds across working relationships. It creates a close knit team and helps celebrate the successes of both the business and from an employee point of view. But be careful you keep those boss/employee boundaries intact though. Especially if you’re on the booze. We’ve all heard the story of the boss that had a little too much and either told people what they truly thought or had to be helped home. Not the greatest impression and one that will surely have your employees talking. Make sure you take time to speak with everyone - not just those employees you are most friendly with and don’t be the last to leave. Keep those three things in mind and you can't go far wrong.

Be yourself - As any good dating advice site will tell you - be yourself. If you're the kind of boss that is open and friendly with their staff, then that’s fine. Same applies if you would rather keep it more formal with your employees. Don’t feel because you are a small company that you have to change your style for your employees. There’s nothing worse when your typically formal boss starts to be all friendly or vice versa. It could make staff uneasy, or suspicious that something is going up.

There’s no doubt that friendships in the workplace matter. Some days, your boss/employee relationship may be the only thing that keeps the wheels turning. Just remember that you’re the leader. Your authority will matter in time of need, so set the right boundaries and your business will benefit.