I’m your boss, not your pal

A Point of View

Melissa Pigott, Ph.D.

On March 10, 2015

Category: Business Frustrations, Business personalities, Careers, Employment, Getting the Job Done, Managing Employees, Small Business Success

In a small office environment, the lines demarcating supervisor and subordinate are often blurred. This is particularly true in small offices, such as mine, with a casual dress code on all days when we are not among clients. Even though I am decades older than my employees, now that I have been a business owner for many years, it is surprising how often they appear confused about our roles. I have been regaled with countless stories of employees’ antics during weekends; I have been told gruesome details of employees’ and their family members’ medical conditions (including abortions and other horrors); I have been asked for advice pertaining to employees’ relationships with their significant others; and in general, have been provided with way too much information. I recently met someone who was trying to obtain a job who began our meeting with a tearful account of her impending divorce, something that obviously had nothing to do with the business at hand. I know being a psychologist carries with it the “occupational hazard” of being perceived as someone who is eager to give advice (for free, of course!), but in a work environment, all employees and prospective employees should know to limit their desire to tell the boss their most intimate secrets. I try to be nice, but in the end, I am the boss, not the pal or best buddy of the employee, and there are many things I would prefer not to be told. Common sense and decorum go a long way!

Perhaps another of our top 5 surprises is how often, in a general sense, we have been told what I would consider otherwise to be “private” details of employee’s lives. And, I am not sure whether this is because we are small business in which everyone knows each other well, or because there appears to be a general cultural change toward more disclosure of personal information. The simple analysis of whether Melissa, or I, or any other employer is a friend or boss should be clear to employees. Obviously some of our employees and job candidates have not considered where that line should be drawn and where they are offering TMI (too much information). That line may change over time or with increased familiarity due to job tenure, but it is always there in an employee/employer situation. It is odd that, as employers, we have to remind people of this. And, it is difficult to know what to say in a work setting when some of this information is disclosed. Some of what we’ve been told would be defined as elements of a hostile work place if it originated from the employers, as opposed to the employees. This phenomenon is more than the adage about better to be thought to be a fool than opening one’s mouth and removing all doubt! TMI can impact your career in many ways. Remember the boss is always the boss, not a pal.

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