SME bosses warned against getting too friendly with staff

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Small-business owners who mix business with pleasure face a challenge when it comes to leading their people, according to our sister site, AccountingWEB.co.uk, and a recent study.

A survey undertaken among 60 managers and personnel working in small to medium businesses by coaching services provider Kuhnke Communications revealed that a huge 77% of respondents spent time with their colleagues outside of work, with 37% doing so on a regular basis. A quarter said they were friends with their colleagues, while 15% indicated that managers were likewise friends with their staff.

However, three out of five also admitted that they sometimes found it difficult not to mix friendship and business relationships at work, while more than half of managers felt that their personal relationship with employees meant that they were unable to give impartial feedback on their performance. Three out of ten experienced this problem on a regular basis.

Elizabeth Kuhnke, founder of Kuhnke Communications, said: “It’s difficult to resist the temptation of becoming friends if you like somebody as a person. However, it’s important to remember that friendship at work always causes misunderstandings and irritation when your personal relationships contradict business interests.”

As a result it was important to be friendly without getting personally involved in colleagues’ lives and to give feedback on employees’ work regularly but not just when they made mistakes, she added.

“This will make you feel more confident when it comes to giving somebody constructive criticism. Never involve your colleagues’ personal abilities in the discussion. It’s easier to give and receive critical feedback when you know it’s about the job and not about the person,” Kuhnke said.

Interestingly, however, personnel agreed. A massive nine out of 10 believed that the most appropriate behaviour for managers was to stay business-focused, while retaining the ability to understand employees’ personal issues when necessary.

Some 86% also believed that keeping the environment business-focused was the most beneficial situation for everyone.

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