Employee – Employer Relationships: Should You Befriend Employees? Entrepreneurs Weigh In

Is befriending employees a recipe for success or disaster -- here's what ten entrepreneurs had to say about it.

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As an entrepreneur you should strive to develop positive interpersonal relationships with your team. But many wonder — “Where should I draw the line?”

Author and Careerealism writer, Amanda Hathaway suggests “building workplace relationships is an important component of being successful in your career. This doesn’t mean you need to be completely extroverted in every situation, but it does mean you need to make an effort to get to know the people with whom you work and learn about what skills and abilities they bring to the table.”

However, MillenialCEO writer Daniel Newman believes there is a, “delicate balance in [a] relationship between an employer and their employee.” Newman recommends considering the complications that can arise between employer and employee relationships: “While It may not be possible to entirely prevent these, and in fact you may have a few of them yourself. It is very important that you recognize the risk associated with these types of relationships so you can better manage them.”

We asked entrepreneurs if befriending employees is a recipe for success or disaster — here’s what they had to say:

1. Build mutual respect, but know where to draw the line.

“[Being friends with your employees] helps establish a respect between bosses and their workers. [I feel] it is better to establish a level of mutual respect based on positive, close and friendly interactions then having no respect from employees who do not like their boss. [I] feels this mutual respect creates a more positive atmosphere in the work place and, as such, employees enjoy working in his company. [I do] feel, however, that there must always be a line and does not think actions like drinking heavily with employees shows any leadership qualities or establishes any mutual respect. Employees have to know they are there to deliver results, but they should be able to get along with their boss and feel he is approachable.

– Mark Pearson, Founder and Chairman of MyVoucherCodes: @MyVoucherCodes

2. Joke, laugh and have a good time, but don’t get personal. 

“The work at my company requires a mix of creativity and analytical thinking so it is important for me to maintain the right tone in my office. I genuinely care about each of my employees and I am friendly to all of them. After all, work should be fun right? However, I avoid becoming friends with them by not asking personal questions. For example, my assistant’s sister got married last weekend. When she returned to the office on Monday I asked how the wedding was and if she had fun, but I didn’t ask for details. Once she indicated it was fun, I told her I am glad she had a good time and changed the subject. We joke, we laugh, and we have a good time; we just don’t get too personal.”

– Lori Riviere, Concept Commander of It Marketing Concepts: @shortcuts2fab

3. Employer — employee relationships help startups thrive.

“In a startup environment, I believe you should treat employees like friends. When starting a company, especially with low funding, you need to keep the friendliness high because often a strong business mentality can be mistaken for being unfriendly or rude. A perfect example is Steve Jobs. Some viewed him as a dictator where others saw him as a visionary. Sometimes greatness can be misunderstood.”

– Michael Austin Jacobs, Co-Founder and CEO of SociaLink App: @SociaLinkApp

4. Be friendly with employees on a case-by-case basis.

“Treating employees like friends is a delicate balance between understanding their level of maturity, capability and motivation and not clouding the boundaries between a working relationship and acquaintance.  A relationship with a mature, competent and motivated employee can quite easily become one of friendship and someone of quality will recognize that eventually the boss has the last say, when a business issue is involved.  A relationship with a less mature (possibly younger) or less worldly employee should always be kept on a work related basis, since the boundary between company success and employee errors may cause moments of awkwardness, particularly if a worker is not performing to standards expected by the management.”

– Andrew Mills, Founder and Owner of NEPHRIA Jade Beauty Products: @Nephria

5. Treat employees like friends — always.

“You should treat employees like friends because it’s easier to create a mutual respect that way. Employees should not respect you just because you have the title of ‘boss,’ but because they know you’re doing what is right for the company and [themselves]. It’s easier for them to know this when you have a personal friend relationship and not just a work relationship.”

– Kelsey Meyer, President of Digital Talent Agents: @Kelsey_M_Meyer

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