Solomon Bruce Consulting Blog

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Are You My Boss? Are You My Friend? Confusion Portends Conflict. Get Clarity.

            In today’s world, many new employees under age 30 default to thinking that the new boss is a new friend. The casual workplace reinforces the situation. And millennials’ personalities add to the challenges.  Studies suggest that millennials have  issues with a superior’s tone of voice in which, with the need for constant feedback and for positive reinforcement. This generation expects extra compensation for any extra effort and gets frustrated easily. The net result is misunderstanding and foggy demarcation between work relationships and relationships with friends.

            It is not uncommon for a new employee to want to fit in, to be liked and to be respected in his/her new position.  That’s universal. But  there is a difference between associations in social settings and interactions between you and the boss.

            No matter what kind of an environment one works in, the boss is the person  to whom we are accountable.  In a start-up that has a flat hierarchy, the boss may be the individual who has funded the enterprise.  Or bosses may be a set of partners who run the company.  In a long established firm, the boss may be the manager, director, or vice president. We all  report to someone, even if we are self-employed. For sole proprietors, the boss is the customer, the individual who buys your product that pays your salary, however grand or meager that might be.

            But with new technological methods of communication -- think Slack,  Googlechat, Campfire, SnapChat, Flowdoc, Facebook, and LinkedIn —there is a propensity for channels to cross over workplace and homelife constantly.  Thus, new employees believe that the way they communicate in social media is acceptable when interacting at work and talking to one’s superior.  This is wrong!  The way in which to address this issue is upfront, upon day of hire. 

            Managers and leaders must  make expected communication style and preferred channels very clear to each new employee.  And different bosses will have difference preferences. Some folks like email. Some want a phone call. Others prefer  in-person conversations.  Older bosses (and workers) are more formal and may expect communication to be similarly formal.  I am very comfortable with just about any channel: email, Facebook, the phone or dropping in. Nevertheless, most new, young employees are not. So managers must tell new team members exactly what the culture is, what expectations are around communication and then re-enforce each and every day.   The boss sets the tone, the style and the preferred channel for interaction and needs to remind his or her team as frequently as possible.

           In summary, our friends will take us the way we are.  Our bosses need us to be the way they expect us to be within their cultures, in their businesses. And for new employees to fulfill those expectations, leaders have to spell it out.  The boss and the employee can have a friendly relationship, but that’s different than being friends.  


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