Once upon a time, there were "rules" about a professional reporting relationship. The manager was clearly the authority and was to be revered by the employee. Often, the manager was older than the employee and the assumption was that he or she possessed greater wisdom. Therefore, the employee was obliged to listen and generally heed that wisdom. A clear delineation of power existed between the two and everyone recognized that the manager was to be held in high regard and treated with deference by the employee. Both parties understood that becoming too familiar with the other was not in his or her best interest when it came to success in the workplace. Managers were discouraged from socializing with their charges outside of work and in all cases, the employee was expected to take a subordinate role to his or her "superior".
Fast forward to today. In many organizations, a far more egalitarian approach exists. Managers serve more as coaches, facilitators and partners. For one thing, they are no longer the sole guardians of information that formerly gave them so much power. With technology changes, nearly everyone can get vital information at the touch of a keystroke. Management is no longer reserved for those with seniority, and workers of any age may rise to positions of authority due to their technical prowess, their ability to relate to others and their leadership qualities. So, in many environments, one person may carry the title of manager, but the employee is considered more of a colleague than a direct report.
So, what is the "etiquette" of the reporting relationship today? The manager has many responsibilities; among them the obligation to share information, encourage and support growth, and to hold employees accountable for their work. The employee is expected to learn as well as to teach, to take responsibility for their work and to share ideas and concerns with their manager. Both parties are expected to treat one another with dignity and respect.
Can a manager and an employee also share a personal friendship outside of work? The question is more "How do I differentiate between friend and boss?" And what do I need to do to avoid the perception of favoritism? Some guidelines include:
- Having a conversation with employees to let them know that at work, your responsibility includes assessing their professional performance. Providing feedback is part of your job as a manager and your intent is to support them to do their very best.
- Having a conversation with the team to let them know your clear expectations and how they can contribute to the team's success.
- Holding regular one-to-one meetings with employees to discuss their progress and to find out how you as the manager can help them achieve their goals while continuing to do the work of the organization