Can a manager be a friend as well as an authority to staff in the workplace?
As an employee, it can be good to class the people you spend eight hours a day with as friends, rather than just colleagues – if only so the day passes by more pleasantly and team spirit stays strong.
However, do you think the opposite is advisable for executives, supervisors or team managers? Boundaries are necessary; without them, you risk the people in your team rejecting your authority.
Are there tensions if employees see their manager as ‘one of the guys/girls’ down the pub after work every Friday night? Can it subsequently be hard to distinguish them as someone ‘in charge’ come Monday morning?
The temptation might be to brush off what you’re suggesting, delegating or directing with a playful retort just as they might outside of work. Such a scenario could also send subconscious signals to those who don’t join in the social scene that there may be favourites within the team. How would you imagine that impacts on team building?
Of course, there can be an extreme at the other end of the scale: too much distance can make a manager appear unapproachable and austere, which has its own drawbacks. A happy medium between the two is where working relationships fare the best. Some of my management coaching clients find one such solution for them is to join their team for one drink after work on Friday, then leave. But in arriving at this solution, they become aware too, that this social arrangement can be divisive if other team members have childcare responsibilities or religious beliefs which mean they can’t accompany their team on such social activities.
What if you’ve been promoted above people who were once work pals?
Granted, this is a tricky situation, and a common one. Suddenly, you’re expected to make decisions and have influence over people you were once on a par with. It’s not surprising that some people look to tread carefully rather than jump in with both size 9s.
Accept that things will never be the same
When someone is reporting to you, confidentiality has to be in place – not just about other team members but also about company news and announcements It’s also important that equality is demonstrated if you’re to gain the respect of all team members, and not just those you were once closest to.
Give it time
It may take a while for others to get used to the new dynamics and it’s natural to worry about your friends’ reactions or that enforcing boundaries makes you unpopular.
Without this distance it makes it extremely hard to be fair and objective when it comes to appraisals, promotions and keeping order. While this adjustment period is taking place it can be common for managers to feel that their direction is largely being ignored: keeping a resolve and taking action, instead of letting the situation fester, will help everyone through the transition. Though assertion may feel strange, it is necessary to establish the new structure of your team. In facing this situation, some of my clients find a solution for them is to share their concerns with their team and ask for their help and sensitivity as they step up to their new role.
Delegation may, for some, be a new skill to master. It’s an issue that can easily be addressed in executive coaching or management coaching sessions. Also, see my previous post on effective delegation and how it can improve the structure and efficiency of the whole team.
And if you’d like help with the issue of implementing boundaries, contact me on 01302 220221.