At People Centric Consulting Group, we help train competent managers who manage their people well. At first glance, it may seem counter intuitive from a People Centric model to say supervisors should not be friends with their employees, but proper workplace boundaries are a necessity in a healthy organization.

Organizations that do not have healthy workplace boundaries are more vulnerable to:

  • Increased interpersonal conflict
  • Lack of productivity
  • Erosion of trust and employee morale
  • Perceptions of favoritism and cliques
  • Workplace bullying, harassment or discrimination
  • Increased legal liability

Supervisors without healthy boundaries are vulnerable to being taken advantage of by their employees because of their perceived friendship. Often, this is not an intentional or mean-spirited act on behalf of the employee; it may start simply by asking for a favor regarding work responsibilities or scheduling. Soon it manifests itself in with a variety of expectations regarding how that employee is expected to be treated and how the supervisor thinks they are treating everyone. Trust and productivity declines, which, in turn, leads to low employee morale.

How do supervisors and managers implement healthy workplace boundaries?

Supervisors should clearly define these expectations up front.

As part of the onboarding process for new employees, an intentional talk about workplace boundaries should be held. The supervisor should include clearly defined expectations regarding the supervisor-employee relationship. Work/role boundaries should be included in any employee documents such as employee handbooks and reinforced when possible.

Supervisors should move quickly and intentionally to build good working relationships with their employees, while at the same time, maintaining healthy boundaries.

This can be done with the proper tone and a positive attitude. Boundaries around personal information should be more firm at first and only become more permeable over time once there is a clear understanding around the organizational roles. The bottom line is personal relationships should not interfere with workplace interactions.

When boundaries are violated, supervisors should be quick to address the matter in the most positive, transparent way they can.

Serious violations should not be tolerated and immediately dealt with through the proper HR channels.