4 Ways to Manage the Perils of 'Friend-ployees'

4 Ways to Manage the Perils of  Friend-ployees
image credit: NBC

When starting a business, it can feel like you are living in the office. Having a team you trust is important, but with long hours and close working conditions, its easy to let the line between employee and friend blur.

Like many entrepreneurs, Reema Khan, CEO of s.h.a.p.e.s. Brow Bar, in Cerritos, Calif. spends long hours with her employees. Lately, her focus on opening a new concept, She Bar, a high-end one-stop beauty services “bar,” has her working in one location every day for month instead of traveling to the various locations of her business.

Khan, who has had problems in the past with employees who got too “chummy,” is careful to keep her professional expectations clear. Here are her tips to prevent crossing the line between being a boss and a buddy.

Related: How to Give Employees Independence Without Losing Control

1. Set a professional tone. “You need to lead by example. The way you conduct yourself in the workplace is how employees will react to you,” says Khan. She holds a meeting at the beginning of each day for employees working on the new business concept. The meeting sets a professional tone and gives her a chance to outline the goals and initiatives for each day, she says. This allows employees to ask questions and discuss concerns in a structured forum. During the rest of the day, Khan is typically all business, coaching her employees about the new business and working with her management staff. 

Related: How to Break Bad News to Employees

2. Beware of the “overshare.” With so many hours in the workplace, it’s tough not to veer into personal territory -- a new pet, a child’s soccer game, etc.-- during everyday discussions. However, when employees begin to have personal trouble, the boss shouldn’t get involved. If their problems are affecting the work, you might refer them to community resources that can help, possibly through your health insurance provider’s resource list or various nonprofits in the employee’s area which serve the issues he or she is facing.

3. Make corrections. It’s possible that, despite your best efforts, employees may become too informal or share too much information about their personal lives. When that happens, kindly but firmly make a correction. Khan says something along the lines of, “It’s best if we don’t discuss personal issues in the workplace,” which is usually enough to get the conversation back on professional ground.

Related: Can You Be a Tough Boss Without Being a Jerk?

4. Get a (personal) life. It’s fine to take employees out for a meal or have an impromptu birthday cake to celebrate someone’s big day. But if you’re out partying with employees on the weekends and then trying to get them to toe the professional line on Monday morning, you might have trouble, Khan says. Develop friendships outside the workplace to keep your social life and your professional life separate.  

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