Relationships at work are crucial, and can underpin the success of your business. They can be the difference between having a happy and dedicated workforce with job satisfaction, or alternatively creating an atmosphere that makes people want to bail out as soon as they can.
As your company and workforce grows, it’s important that you understand the boundaries when it comes to interacting with your staff on a social basis. I’ve always been very supportive of employees, who want to take their socialising out of the office, with or without their boss joining in. Nothing is to be gained by erecting unnecessary boundaries that prevent friendships developing. I’m a great believer in setting targets. Having agreed-upon aims gives your business and your staff some sort of structure. I’m not suggesting you should have a formal rule over your relationships with your staff, but knowing in your own mind how you should interact with them is its own form of structure.
Sometimes a boss can be too ‘matey’ outside the office, which is great fun for the employees, but can become a problem if discipline needs to be enforced on those same people within the workplace. In many ways, professional dynamics are the same as family dynamics. When you’ve got children, they need to know their boundaries. If you let them get away with too much, you have set a precedent, and it can be difficult to rein them in later. It’s the same in your business – your staff will learn their professional habits from you.
At Raw Talent, my personal assistant is someone who has been my wife’s best friend since childhood, so we’re obviously close friends. But there’s mutual respect between the two of us, and we both know where the boundaries are. Of course, sometimes platonic relationships between staff develop into romantic relationships. You shouldn’t be concerned (you couldn’t stop it happening even if you wanted to), and there’s no reason why this should be a problem if you’ve the correct culture ingrained into your operations.
Many years ago, before I was on The Apprentice, I worked in the same office as my then partner – who later became my wife. If you’d come into the office, I’d hope you’d never have guessed we were a couple. We both knew the score, and where the boundary was. I’ve never had a situation where things in my social life have had a negative impact on my work. Although that might sound fortunate, it’s been based on mutual respect. I’m someone who ‘likes to be liked’, and I take great pride in the friendships I’ve developed through my work. But understanding the parameters means that professional and social relationships can both blossom without causing problems. It might sound a straightforward philosophy, but following this simple rule is all it takes.
By Lee McQueen, director, Raw Talent Academy