Building relationships with others is an art on its own and can be even more complicated when it involves business. Every company and business has a system. This article explains.
Depending on the size, the industry and the workplace, the relationship between employees, managers and directors could be different. No matter what kind of company, the human relationship is an important aspect and one that can’t be overlooked.
As a boss, likely, you don’t want to be the feared figure sitting behind your desk, with no relationship with your employees. Not having a relationship with your employees will likely result in a lack of communication and in turn, not be able to achieve the best results for your business.
I have been running small events and marketing company for the past few years. Because of the small size and the creative nature of my company, I worked closely with employees, freelancers, temporary staff, customers and clients. I have even brought friends to help me out with different projects.
Throughout the years, I have worked with hundreds, if not thousands of people, and let me start by saying, if you don’t know the balance between “professional” and “friendly”, you could end up losing the respect of those around you, accidentally sharing too much to your colleague, and possibly ruin a great professional partner.
I have made some mistakes in the past when it comes to relationships in the workplace but luckily, none of them is permanent or unsalvageable. For the most part, I have had incredible business relationships with those around me. However, I have seen and heard about terrible employees, awkward relationships with coworkers and even hatred within workplaces that had been budding for years.
From my own experiences and those that I have observed throughout the years, I have come to realise the importance of some key factors, when it comes to balancing “professional” and “friendly”. Here, I would like to dive into these key elements along with some examples.
Set clear boundaries
I would say that 90% of people I have ever worked with are not just my “colleagues”, but my friends. They are people that I would hang out with outside of the workplace, grab a drink with and just have a casual chat.
No one would want to work with people that you don’t like, right? Especially when you are the boss and you can decide who to work with.
Being friendly with my colleagues and employees is an important part of my business, since it allows me to strengthen the communication within the company, but it can quickly turn sideways if clear boundaries aren’t set.
Especially when it comes to hanging out with your colleagues outside of work, and if alcohol is involved, things could get a little tricky and you might say or do something that would be considered inappropriate in front of your colleagues.
Imagine if you feel very close to your colleagues and go drinking with them after work one day, you get wasted and bad-mouthed someone in the office. It is undoubtedly unprofessional and could result in awkward situations, and even unnecessary drama within the workplace.
So set clear boundaries. For example, don’t bring up certain topics. Consider whether or not it is appropriate for your workplace relationship to go to a bar, a nightclub, hang out one-on-one over the weekend.
Understand where the line is. If you are the employee, be the one to set an example. Be the one to show where the boundary is. Understand what topics can be discussed and what topics should be stayed away from when it comes to interacting with your colleagues. Know what your workplace is about and what kind of relationships and conversations might be better left among your friends.
Take note of the time and place
Nowadays with the rising number of start-ups and small businesses, the workplace environment can become casual and informal. Many companies are now boosting their “friendly environment” and “flexible dress codes”. While this is great and exciting, it also blurs the line between “professional” and “friendly”.
When you’re in the office with your colleagues or when you’re having meetings, understand that it is the time to be “professional”. Stay away from casual conversations or unproductive tasks. Doing this can not only make sure everyone takes the workplace seriously, but also more productive to get things done.
On the contrary, when it is during lunch breaks or when you hang out with your colleagues after work, know that it is the right time and place to engage in “friendly” conversations and interactions. Of course, take note of the first tip of setting clear boundaries so you don’t run into any troubles down the line.
I like to engage in casual conversions to catch up with my colleagues quickly at the beginning of the day or lunch. Get that out of the way and make sure to put all personal talks at bay during the working hours.
I’m not saying be rude to people during working hours. Be friendly and polite but keep things professional. This can make sure that you can all have productive days, without personal chitchats that can be taken to the end of the workday or outside of work.
Treat people like people
You’re probably thinking, duh! Yes, it sounds very simple, but there is a lot that goes into this. It might be easier said than done but it comes down to the importance of respect. You can’t expect people to treat you well or want to continue working with you if you don’t treat people with respect.
If you are the manager, director or CEO, then you probably had the chance to choose who to work with. During the interview process, you probably feel that the person is a strong asset to your company and can contribute to the designated field.
If you are an employee, you probably don’t have a choice but to work with the people assigned to you.
In either case, what if you don’t like the person once you get to know them? Or what if you like them too much and want to hang out with the person all the time? No matter how you feel about your colleagues, always treat them with respect. Be polite and accepting of their opinions, ideas and work performance. If something doesn’t go accordingly, discuss openly in a professional manner.
Respect for your colleagues is the minimum requirement, even if you don’t like them as a person, you should respect their experience, work and appreciate their place and contribution to the team.
At the end of the day, each member of your team has to do their part to fulfil the company’s mission and often, this means putting differences aside and building collaborative relationships with others for a good of the team.
Be honest in all that you do. Over the years, I have encountered countless people that exaggerate, lie and tell untrue stories. When it comes to business and to have a flourishing relationship, it’s very important, to be honest, and transparent with those around you.
Many people don’t realise that honesty is a key characteristic of good leaders. Having a transparent work environment build your employees’ trust in you and your business. They will gain confidence in your leadership.
Not to mention, if you are honest with them then they will be more likely, to be honest with you, and when people are comfortable speaking the truth, the team will work better together overall, leading to higher productivity, and fewer issues.
I’m not saying you should tell them everything and reveal all your professional and personal secrets, but honesty is key in establishing a relationship that would result in mutual respect. Only when you are being honest will you be able to have a professional yet friendly relationship.
Be a good listener
Aside from being honest, being a good listener is also extremely important. Good leaders are active listeners. Part of your role as a successful leader and a successful colleague is the ability to hear and listen to what those around you have to say. Allow them to contribute, listen to their feedback.
Heck! Encourage them to give you feedback and suggestions. Showing this level of engagement not only helps you grow as a leader, but it builds trust and empathy skills.
In my company, we have weekly meetings, where we explore the current projects we have going on, involving everyone to throw ideas around with suggestions for improvements.
As the boss, I try my best to encourage those around me to speak their minds. Although sometimes, my ego takes a hit when I receive criticisms, everyone needs to know that most of these criticisms provided by your colleagues are constructive.
Because of my ego, I have refused to listen to my colleagues in the past and ended up wasting time and resources on aspects of my business that eventually went nowhere. Being a good listener and being open-minded, putting your ego aside and taking other people’s opinions into account is very important.
Leaders can get stuck behind the computer and focus on rushing forward, rather than taking a moment to sit back and reflect. Let those around you do that for you. This can result in better relationships between you and your colleagues, as well as ensuring a strong professional yet friendly communication.
No one likes to admit that they are wrong. However, be open-minded and allow your colleagues to make suggestions. Only then will you be able to improve and grow.
Nearly all the points above are all working towards the common goal of building trust between yourself and your employees.
When it comes to your employees, you are working with them because they have their certain skill sets and they excel in what they do. Trust that they are capable of the work.
Understand that your role is not to micromanage. If it is, then we’ve got a problem. I understand how hard it is to let go sometimes, especially if you are the entrepreneur that built this company from the ground up. It can be hard to let go. If you were to micromanage every step and every action, then you will likely waste a lot of time and linger on tasks that you might not be great at.
I have hired freelancers in the past to help with certain projects. I read through their applications, interviewed them and decided to hire them because of their abilities and skill sets. When they joined the company and started working, I caught myself micro-managing them and getting frustrated that they weren’t working as “fast” as I wanted. This not only came in the way of my productivity but also hurt the professional relationship we had.
I soon came to realise that I can’t do what they do and in reality, I don’t know exactly how long each task would take. I was not trusting my freelancers to complete the tasks and in the end, wasted more time managing them while damaging our relationship.
Luckily, I let myself trust them and that almost immediately improved our professional relationship, as well as allowing me to have lasting friendly relationships with these freelancers. Now, I know that I can call them when a new project comes around because of the trust that I have built with them.
Trust that those around you have a valuable skill set, opinions and suggestions. Every relationship is built around trust and in a professional setting, it is no different.
The line between being professional and being friendly can be blurry. If handled poorly, it could damage your relationship and your business. Take these points into consideration through your communications and actions for you to have a professional yet friendly business environment.
About the Author
Venese has been an entrepreneur since she was 19 and now with Your Entrepreneur Resources, she helps entrepreneurs start, grow and scale their businesses, connecting you with the right mentors, resources and tools.