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Wednesday Wisdom: You need to separate your personal and professional relationships

This continues our Wednesday Wisdom series where we review some of the top leadership issues we are currently assisting our clients through. We hope you enjoy reading!

Many of you reading this have been there. Last week, you were a co-worker to some of your closest friends. This week you have been promoted and now you are responsible for leading those same friends. No problem, right? You can be fair!

It is not a problem until your “friend” does something that you need to discipline them for or does not do something and now you need to hold them accountable. Now what do you do? I mean, you are “friends” so you can just have a friendly conversation, right? WRONG! While you do not need to turn into a dictator overnight in this scenario, some things do need to change.

Too many leaders get themselves into a troublesome situation where they cannot separate personal and professional relationships. They get into situations where they think they can continue being friends with the people they are charged with leading, or where their allegiance to a friend ends up causing a toxic work environment. If this resonates with you, you need to make some changes right away! By not separating the relationships, you are only going to hurt your people and also hurt yourself.

If you are in this situation here’s a few things we recommend:

- First, you must create some new expectations and boundaries with the person you are leading that you have a prior relationship with. You decide what that looks like. Once you are clear on how things will be, you need to sit down and have this conversation.

- Realize that just because you are friends with someone that you now lead, it does not mean you need to cut them out of your life completely. You just need to understand when the office catches wind of the party you were at with them over the weekend and now you are assigning tasks to your team, that they are always going to think this person is receiving preferential treatment.

- This does not just apply to newly promoted managers/leaders. If you have been leading someone for a while and have also been maintaining a close personal relationship with them, you also need to create expectations and boundaries.

Always think of the perception from other people. Their perception is their reality. Even if you think you are being completely fair and not showing favorites, they will always see it that way. They will begin to resent and alienate your friend. They will lose trust and confidence in you. This can lead to a toxic work environment. Let this knowledge guide and motivate you to make some changes.

It is a hard reality in business. The relationships at work and outside work have to be separated. You have to be consistent across the board. Never allow anyone to question your personal interests. That is a leadership killer.


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