Common challenges

Why Can’t We Be Friends? Setting Workplace Boundaries

May 31, 2018

An employee invites you and a bunch of co-workers to a backyard barbeque party at their place this weekend. It’s intended to be a night of food, drinks, and fun. As a manager, should you go?

You’ve probably thought about or encountered situations like this before and are unsure about what role you should play outside of the office. On the one hand, getting together with employees after work is a great way to socialize and increase team morale, which can translate into greater communication and trust in the workplace. On the other hand, attending social functions and developing personal relationships with your subordinates can sometimes make your management role become unclear if the lines between the workplace and everyday life begin to blur together.

Ultimately, you want to be able to balance a friendly relationship with staff while still being able to effectively lead them towards attaining organizational objectives. While you may hit it off with certain employees outside of work, you should remember your priority role is to be a leader. It can be difficult for managers to know how to separate business from socializing when interacting with employees inside and outside of the office. Getting too casual with employees could cause them to treat you—or even the company—too casually.

Social events with subordinates and colleagues after working hours can make it difficult to balance the “boss” and “friend” roles. Ultimately you want to remain in a position where you can provide instruction, direction, and feedback that will be well-received. While conversations outside of work are likely to differ from ones inside the workplace, the behaviour should still be respectful and professional. It is important that managers set up and stick to their professional boundaries to ensure that the “boss” role is not undermined during off-hours conduct.

So the question remains, should you attend after-hours gatherings, or not? Ultimately, the decision is up to you, but there are some points all managers should consider before saying yes to after work invitations. Download our FREE Management After Hours Guide and try our tips.

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Editor's Note: This article was originally published on July 6, 2017 and was updated May 31, 2018.

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