When you are leading a team, you might wonder how to befriend your employees. Or you may wonder if it’s even possible to be friends with those you oversee. The reality is there’s no simple answer. Workplace friendships between bosses and employees can be complicated. When you’re in charge of rating your sales reps’ work and making decisions that impact their livelihood, the power dynamics can make an authentic friendship difficult.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t build a genuine camaraderie with your sales reps. It just means you shouldn’t treat them like your best friends outside of work, says marketing expert Brit Booth. When you show that you care about your employees and you don’t see them as replaceable units, you can often inspire them to be more creative and feel more secure in their roles.

If you want to know how to build friendships at work but still remain professional, read on. In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share Booth’s tips on how to build stronger affiliations with your employees.

Establish boundaries. You can talk to your friends about anything—just stay mindful about what you discuss with your work friends. As a leader, it’s important to set the tone and show that you are friendly and interested in your team, but that you are still the boss. Rather than rehashing what’s going on in your personal life with one of your sales reps, keep firm work-personal boundaries in place. You can also be upfront about your stance, notes Booth. Let your team know that you have a “work first, personal life second” attitude. She adds that this could even lead to a more engaged team.

Create conversations. While it’s not a good idea to only dish about personal topics, it’s okay to talk about life outside of work sometimes. That’s how you get to know those on your team. With all the remote work now, you may find it easier to learn more about your sales reps when you see their pets, homes and décor during video calls. Use what you see as a conversation starter. When you see your team members in their personal element, you can connect on something other than sales reports.

Plan structured social time. Another way to build connections while remaining professional is to create time for socialization. Booth likes to set up weekly one-on-ones with her direct reports. Those meetings are to discuss work-related topics only. However, during special monthly one-on-ones, Booth opens the floor to chat about open-ended topics. She says oftentimes these casual conversations lead to personal discoveries for her employees.

You can be friendly at work and even have meaningful workplace friendships. Just be sure to stay open to chatting with everyone—even those you may not immediately share commonalities. When you care about those you manage and you seek to form bonds with all your sales reps, connections will naturally form.

Compiled by Audrey Sellers

Source: Brit Booth is a marketing expert with extensive experience in leading creative teams, brand building and thought leadership. She has held leadership positions in marketing departments across a variety of companies, most recently Perfect Day and Chewse.