The people you work with are usually the people you spend more time with than your own family, especially during your business’s peak activity seasons. This makes it critical to your job satisfaction for you to get along with your employees. It also raises the question of whether it’s a good idea to spend time with employees socially.

Benefits of spending time with employees

Getting to know your employees on a social level can humanize you to them. It changes you from the person who holds the fate of their paycheck into a person with feelings, a family and personal goals. It gives them something to talk to you about at the office beyond sales figures and the next client presentation.

Spending time with employees socially can also help you become a better boss. An employee may not share their ultimate career aspirations with you during work hours, but may be comfortable doing so at lunch or at a happy hour. Knowing where an employee wants to be can help you mentor them more effectively and understand which promotion opportunities are worth sending their way.

Even if your employees leave the company, they can still be vital business contacts for you, personally and professionally.

Drawbacks of spending time with employees

Of course, there’s an inherent problem with spending time with employees socially: You become friends. In and of itself, this isn’t an issue, as long as you both have appropriate professional boundaries.

Issues arise when employees begin to feel their friendship with you trumps their professional responsibilities. Perhaps they begin slacking during the day or turning in work late. They may also forget a line exists between conversations that occur outside office hours and at work, leading to a more casual demeanor with you than is appropriate at the office.

Forging friendships with employees may lead to the distrust of other employees. Even when you act in a fair manner, the other employees may feel you’re playing favorites and giving the best assignments or promotions to your friends.

Striking the right social balance with employees

If you plan to spend time with employees socially, it’s important to create a boundary from the very beginning. To keep things as fair as possible:

  • Be fair in how you handle promotional and discipline issues
  • Correct any inappropriate behavior from employees without delay
  • Look for ways to include all employees during off-work hours, even if they don’t accept your invitation

Above all else, always ask yourself if your friendship with a particular employee gives the appearance of favoritism. While you never want to discriminate against an employee you see socially, staying aware of how situations look to other employees helps you avoid potential conflict.

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