How do You Avoid The Pitfalls of a Professional Relationship?

How do You Avoid The Pitfalls of a Professional Relationship?

Becoming friends with a colleague is very different to working with someone who is already your friend.

It's always a delicate situation when a friend asks you to put in a good word for her for a job that's come up in your office. Some of us would do so without thinking twice, but sometimes it pays to be a little more careful about it.

Approximately 75% of positions are filled through networking, referral and word of mouth. But when you are referring someone, there are rules. Let your friend know about the vacancy and give her all the relevant contact details, but let her do the rest. Don't follow up or hound your boss about the job availability.

It's not enough just to like someone - you also need to know your friend's work ethic. You have to ask yourself: could you work with your friend? What's her working style like? Is she a ball-buster? Does she pull her weight? How does she treat colleagues? Will she fit in with your work environment?
There's no harm in referring your friend for a job if she's competent and capable. But always remember, endorsing your friend can put your own reputation on the line.

Be Close, but not too Close

What happens once she's got the job? How friendly can you be? You're certainly not expected to ignore her during office hours, but being joined at the hip can be dangerous. Friends who shut out other colleagues cause resentment and can lead to office cliques, the death knell of productivity and development. 'Cliques may be destructive in the workplace,' writes Dr Jan Yager in Friendshifts: The Power of Friendship and How It Shapes Our Lives (Hannacroix Creek). According to Yager, by withholding information from the rest of the team, cliques often lead to low morale. The clearest way to address this is by being impeccable in your dealings so that everybody trusts you and isn't rattled by your relationship with your friend.

Draw the Lines

Clearly define your obligation to each relationship. And commit to these boundaries: from 9am to 5pm, you're duty-bound to your company. Remember who you are and where you are. If you get to the water cooler and spend 20 minutes bitching and moaning, that's not productive. Make a pact not to let anything personal get back to the office. Outside of work, keep away from heated office topics because you could alienate other friends.

Disclose the Friendship

In large companies, you certainly don't have to tell everyone, but if you work in a small team or in an open-plan office, be clear about your relationship from the start. When you introduce your friend to your other colleagues, just say 'We've known each other for a while, we're in the same social circle'. Keep it professional. If you are pressed, say that just because you're in the same social circle, you don't think it'll affect work. If you're, hiring your friend as a subordinate, inform the rest of the company's management team.

When things go Pear-Shaped

When professional and personal boundaries blur, the grey area that results is vast. To navigate this, it helps to turn to your company's rules. If things go pear-shaped and you are called in to help manage a friend's performance, follow the proper organizational procedures and never bend them. Avoid flare-ups and personal attacks. If you have to manage a friend, you are task and result-bound. Your interaction is in giving instructions, monitoring, giving feedback on performance, and taking appropriate action in line with performance outcomes. Nothing more, nothing less. And if the friendship ends but the job goes on, you must find a way to work together. Bet you didn't think of that at the start, did you?

Remain detached. Also, stay committed to your professional role. Sit and talk about the work relationship like adults. Commit to being professional and define what you stand for so that your ex-friend can trust you in your professional capacity.

Harness the Positives

When it works out, having a friend at work means you have a constant sounding board, an emotional support structure and a trustworthy teammate writes Dr Yager in Friendshifts. 'Friendship helps you enjoy your work more; it is also a relationship that may help you succeed faster,' she says. If you have the same goals and vision harness these aspects to become a dynamic duo. But don't push-it: be aware and don't let your personal alliance disrupt your team.

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