Drawing the Line: Is it Okay to Socialize With Your Employees When You’re the Boss?

The average person spends nearly 9 hours a day in the office, so it’s only natural that friendships would develop over time. Work is obviously more pleasant if you enjoy the people around you, but what happens when you are the boss? Is it acceptable for you to be friends with your employees? When it comes to socializing, the manager-employee relationship is complicated. Managers can and should be friendly with their employees. They should make conversation and get to know their team members. However, they also need to set boundaries and take the right measures to ensure the relationship stays professional.

When friendships develop, it can sometimes complicate the situation and make it difficult to do your job effectively. Managers are required to give honest feedback and make sure their employees are doing their jobs correctly. It can become hard to remain unbiased when your colleagues become your friends. If you don’t hold these co workers accountable for mistakes or you pass along new projects to your friends, other people in the office might begin to take notice. This can cause tension in the office and lead to complaints with HR. If relationships are interfering with your ability to manage, you could be putting your job at risk.

Establishing clear boundaries will help to ensure that bosses and employees remain friendly without crossing the line of professionalism. Here are a few ways managers can set clear boundaries with their employees.

Only socialize during the work day. It is perfectly acceptable to chat with employees in the break room, during lunch hour, at a team happy hour, or at a team-building event. However, bosses should avoid one-on-one socializing during off-work hours like going out to a bar on a Saturday night.

Keep conversations positive and professional. Avoid sharing deep, personal information with employees and refrain from asking personal questions about their lives.

Avoid friending employees on social media. It is not professional to fraternize with employees through social media platforms.

Setting boundaries with employees doesn’t mean that bosses need to be cold and distant. They can still build relationships that are both positive and professional. These professional relationships will help managers retain their best talent while also fostering a safe, healthy work environment.