I am a strong advocate of the adage, “business and pleasure do not mix” even though I co-own a business with my spouse. What works for my spouse/business partner and me does not necessarily work for other people. Indeed, I have found that becoming overly friendly with employees, or conversely, hiring a friend to work for me, rarely turns out well. When these situations have developed, it is difficult to reprimand the employee/friend and if the employee/friend leaves employment on less than positive terms, the end of the friendship is always an unfortunate by-product. There are times, however, when a business association requires socialization, in the form of lunches, dinners, parties, and other outings. When these occasions arise, it is important for everyone in attendance to realize the event is a command performance that requires decorum, respect, and other professional conduct. Sometimes, when the environment away from the office is relaxed, people become overly comfortable and forget it is a work related activity, not a fun time spent among friends. A client is always a client, a vendor is always a vendor, a boss is always a boss, and a subordinate is always a subordinate, regardless of the context. Over sharing, treating one’s client as an equal (despite age, educational, and other status differences), and other forms of conduct that would not be appropriate in the workplace are just as inappropriate in any work related gathering. Don’t ever let your guard down; it may come back to haunt you someday.
When people work together for long periods of time and often, through the adversities of business, some form of friendship can and does develop. But, as long as one of the parties is paying the other to do something, the relationship is one to be handled carefully. I have become very friendly with some people who are my company’s vendors. Some of these connections are longer term and stronger than others. Melissa and I differ somewhat in our approach to these mixed relationships, however, we have both befriended certain vendors. We have also become friendly with clients and I have some strong friendships with clients, especially those who share a common interest. But I am aware, and everyone should be aware, that these are dual or multi faceted relationships that must be treated carefully as a result lest one lose a friend and client simultaneously.