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Q: As a young entrepreneur, how can I balance warmth and relationship with professionalism? Where are the healthy places to draw those lines with my team?
- Lizzie Smiley
San Antonio, Texas
A: In a startup, most relationships tend to get pretty close. Getting through the emotional ups and downs and long hours of startup life will inevitably make things cozy — possibly much cozier than normal professional relationships.
Your employees are likely to also become the people you most often grab dinner or beers with after work, so the line between friend and colleague will get blurrier over time. However, it is essential to not let that friendship get in the way of your business success.
Here are four tips for maintaining a professional distance:
1. Brace yourself. Arguments will happen. You cannot avoid them in an environment where everyone is overworked and the stakes are high. So be prepared for disputes, and build relationships that are strong enough to withstand them.
2. Bounce back. Don’t hold a grudge. If an employee says something that upsets you, talk to them about it and then brush it off. Don’t let minor differences in opinion leave lasting marks on the relationship.
3. Be respectful. This is good advice for any relationship, but it is particularly important in the workplace. Remember that your employees are there because either you, or someone else with decision-making power in your company, believe they are the best people for the job. Show appreciation for the thankless hours and special talents they contribute to your startup.
4. Be objective. Don’t let your personal relationship with an employee cloud your judgment about her performance at work. Be honest with yourself about that person’s strengths and weaknesses. If you notice areas where she can improve, give her feedback openly. If at any point it becomes clear that she is not the right person for your company, have the courage to do the right thing for your stakeholders, and, if need be, let her go.
How do you balance friendship and professionalism with your team? Share your tips in the comments section below.
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