Millennials are challenging that norm. But that’s OK, and experts agree.
Now, bosses, we just need to get you on board. You’ll quickly discover that being buds with young, talented employees has the potential to boost productivity, improve retention, and make everyone in the workplace happier.
A Friendship Crisis
Traditionally, jobs were perceived as something that paid the bills. In fact, workers weren’t really supposed to like their bosses. Friendships between managers and employees suggested favoritism.
However, Millennials have grown up in a more connected world. Their parents, teachers, and other superiors double as Facebook friends. They no longer have the veil of privacy that past generations experienced.
Older generations need to understand that Millennials want to connect with colleagues on social platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. But Millennials should equally understand that older managers usually aren’t as comfortable with that.
Perhaps you should rethink rejecting that friend request and seek opportunities to be more social with your employees.
What Millennials Are Looking For
It’s simple: Millennials want to make friends at work. So if your company’s culture doesn’t match their social expectations, you could lose some of your best talent. Consider these three questions that Millennials ask themselves when evaluating employers:
- What is the company culture like? If the culture doesn’t personally resonate with the Millennial employee, he’s probably going to move on to another company.
- Does the company have an accelerated advancement program? Many Millennials see themselves getting several promotions a year, so they’re probably not going to want to work at a company that’s had the same boss for 10 years, much less pursue a friendship with him.
- What are the boss’ interests? If the potential employee has similar interests to the employer, he will be more likely to want to work at that company and pursue a friendship with the employer.
While knowing what Millennials are looking for is great, it’s important to understand why the friendships that Millennials seek matter in the first place — and how to make sure those friendships don’t cross the line.
Setting Realistic Boundaries
Keeping home and work life separate is more difficult than in the past.
Employees who feel their workplace is a positive and social environment are usually happier and more successful. “The question isn’t really should we mix friends and work,” said Alia McKee. “That’s inevitable. The question is how do we get it right.”
While being friends with employees has its benefits, there are also risks to watch out for, such as romantic interests. So setting clear, firm, and realistic boundaries is vital to striking a successful work/friendship balance with employees.
- Separate the lines of being a boss and a friend. Have frank discussions with employees about which behaviors are unacceptable.
- Keep the relationship on a friendship level. Nothing destroys the work/friendship balance more than throwing a romantic interest into the mix.
- Stay out of finances. Sure, you know how much your employees make, but that doesn’t mean you should tell them how to spend it.
- Keep the booze to a minimum. Happy hour might seem like the perfect after-work social activity, but things can go downhill fast when too much alcohol is involved.
Good bosses understand that there’s a time to be a leader and a time to be a friend. They set the direction for the friendship and make sure employees are on the same page.
Millennials probably spend more time at the office than with their spouse, partner, roommates, or kids, so they want their workplace to be a home away from home. Knowing they’re going to interact with friends at work will make them more motivated to go (and stay) there.
Are you friends with your employees? If so, how does that affect the way you interact with them? If not, why not?