The average full-time American employee spends about 47 hours a week at their job. This means that people spend about 1/3 of their time between Monday and Friday at the workplace. Given that our jobs are such a big part of our lives it is easy for managers and their employees to get too personal with each other. They might feel inclined to talk about their personal problems or share exciting news that is happening in their lives. However, these personal chats within a formal office environment can wind up being a very sensitive matter. Workplace boundaries can be difficult to define because managers want to be understanding, but they also want their employees to stay focused on their jobs and responsibilities. Setting boundaries with your employees leads to a more efficient and pleasant work environment. Boundaries help to maintain good productivity and healthy social dynamics in the workplace. Here are a few things managers can do to establish healthy boundaries with their employees.
Make Sure Everyone Understands Their Roles and Responsibilities
By providing employees with a detailed description of their responsibilities it allows them to know their role and recognize when they might be stepping outside of those boundaries. This also helps managers by giving them a means by which to measure job performance. Furthermore, clearly defined job descriptions establish accountability among employees, leaving little room for blame and excuses. Employees should know exactly who to report to, how to reach them, and who to expect feedback from.
Familiarize Employees with Rules and Procedures
Every workplace should have its own set of rules, guidelines, and procedures. This lets employees know exactly what the company’s expectations are. Employees should have a clear understanding of which behaviors are unacceptable such as talking on their cell phone at work, using offensive language in the office, gossiping about other employees, and dating within the workplace. Make sure you communicate the consequences for engaging in these types of behavior.
Create Opportunities for Team Building
There is nothing wrong with engaging in friendly relationships with your employees from time to time, but this should be done in moderation and should be work-related. For example, you might have food delivered to the office and hang out with your team during the lunch hour or go out for a drink after work. However, you should try to connect these events to work whenever possible. Look for opportunities to celebrate with your team and acknowledge their successes. This gives you a chance to fraternize with your employees without becoming too personal.
Naturally, there are some people that you will connect with better than others. However, it is important not to let these feelings alter your judgment. Favoritism is usually very obvious to other employees and can be a huge source of contention in the office. Focus on promoting an environment where you have the same expectations for everyone and each and every person is treated equally.
Talk Less and Listen More
All employees are going to have issues going on outside of work and they might be quick to come and talk to you. You don’t have to neglect their need to share with you because this is a sign that your staff trusts you. However, you shouldn’t let an employee sit in your office and talk about their life problems for extended periods of time. Even more importantly, don’t allow yourself to get so engaged that you, too, begin sharing your personal experiences. Once you share too much, you begin to lose your authoritative image and you can’t afford to lose that. You have to remember that you are their boss and not their counselor.
Establishing boundaries while remaining friendly, fair, and respectful is a very difficult task. It can be even more difficult to separate work relationships from personal ones. Nonetheless, getting too personal with employees can diffuse their sense of boundaries and have a crucial impact on the manager’s image. Avoid uncomfortable situations and remind your staff that you are in charge by setting clear, healthy boundaries.