Between a friend and a boss

I love my employees. Every single one of them. The relationship I share with them is more than a common employee – employer relationship. We take lunches together and talk about almost everything outside of work. We are friends. And yet there are times when I am reminded that being a boss is hard. In the previous post I had provided a section about being friendly with your colleagues (I dislike the word employees) and what should be the extent of the friendship. But like most of the aspects of human nature, things are easier said than done. When working in a small team where you get to have a lot of interaction with each of your colleague objectivity is bound to take a hit when it comes to playing the role of the boss. Your personal relationship with them sometimes stops you from reprimanding them for a mistake or confronting them for a delay. You are cautious that you don’t act too harsh in the fear that it might change their behavior towards you and they might stop considering you a friend. Though you are correct to be afraid of this but sometimes it leads to over extending yourself. These are the tough times when you are sitting with them to discuss an issue and yet you are constantly weighing your words just because you can’t be objective and that clouds your judgment. As I mentioned in the earlier post as well, the best way to avoid this is to have clarity in your own mind about what the extent of your friendship with your colleagues is going to be. From what experience I have these are a few pointers that help me in making such decisions and bring clarity.

Always remember that your professional engagement is the core of this relationship. You might have become best friends but it started with you hiring them some time in the past. At the time of hiring both the parties entered into an agreement about their duties and responsibilities. Are those duties and responsibilities still honored? Are your colleagues working up to your expectations that were set when signing the employment/appraisal/increment contract. If not it is seriously time to keep the friendship aside and take a look at it with complete objectivity.

This is something that I call a swap test. When in a sticky situation try to see if you would have reacted the same way if it was any of your employees at the other end. If yes then you are in the safe but if it turns out that your behavior for same actions was different for different colleagues you need to assess your relationship. Partiality is an instant team killer and that is something you do not want.

It’s for their good only. If you have a colleague who is not performing up to the mark or is slacking and you hold yourself back just because of your friendship you are actually doing them harm. You need to realize that growth is a mutual factor. Either both of you will grow or no one will and for that to happen it’s important that all the kinks in the chain are removed. They need to know the areas of improvement and where they need to really buckle down.

Even friends go through rough times. This one needs no explanation. If you truly are friends your colleague would understand.

Boss Friend Sweet Spot Venn Diagram

As you see in this figure, the sweet spot lies where boss and friend overlap. Though that area is very small, it still does exist. It will take some effort from your part but it is you are able to stay in this region it will be worth it.

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I have helped many startups in building their products and I would be happy to have a chat with you about your idea. Catch me on twitter at @akhilrex