As a leader, it is natural for strong personal relationships to form between you and your team members. When you demonstrate that you are someone people can look up to and reach out to for help and guidance in your organization, you build an environment of trust. With this trust, others feel comfortable sharing aspects of their personal lives with you.
When the boundary between personal and professional relationship gets blurred, it can be very difficult to balance it back out. It is important for you to understand when you need to act as the leader of your organization instead of a fellow water cooler pal.
Sticky situations for leaders:
Maternity Leave. Your employee confides in you that she is either trying to get pregnant or just found out the happy news. While feelings of joy might be the first natural reaction, the CEO in you should be thinking about replacement schedules and workflow.
Social media gets too personal. Facebook could easily be the most slippery slope for organizational leaders. Being friends with your employees can be a great way to build a positive organization culture, but seeing pictures and status updates that don’t positively reflect who they appear to be at work can be disarming. Reminding employees about your company’s social media policy will ensure that all content remains PG.
Performance feedback. As you learn more personal information about your employees that lives outside work, you also become well aware that they have a family to support and rely on your feedback for raises and other performance-based incentives. However, this information can potentially make it more difficult for you to give them a negative performance review even when you know their job performance is subpar. Keeping the social and professional elements of each employee separate in your mind during the review process will help you and your employee get what is deserved.
In each of these situations, it is best to involve your human resources department as soon as possible. Be transparent with your employees about your responsibilities as a leader. After you find yourself in a sticky situation, tell your employee that you need to involve others in the situation but that your main priority is to work through it.
In your experience, what has helped you the most in these types of sticky situations? How do you maintain employee relationships while keeping your organization’s best interests in mind?
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