029 Distance to your employees

This special edition of Live It, Lead IT! will be divided into two parts. In part one of this edition, I will be talking about work relationships and how best to foster them. Specifically,  I will be addressing the boundaries you should or shouldn’t maintain with your employees.

The second part of today’s show will be specifically for those working in the field of IT. If you are in this category listen on for I will be revealing a very special offer in the podcast for the IT leadership programme I run – The IT-YoungStars!

For foreigners I made an offer, you literly can’t resist. If you want to become successfull:

The two types

Today I will be discussing how close you should, or shouldn’t be, with your employees. Ultimately there are two types of ways to define any relationship – formal and informal. So which type should you maintain with your colleagues?

Earlier on in my career, I was unsure of how to handle relations between my employees and myself. Those from the old-school generation advocated maintaining distance from their employees. Today, many more have adopted a more relaxed approach, while still keeping the dynamics of the manager-employee. But about friendship? Can your employees be friends?

Can you be friends with your employees?

I’m not a big fan of maintaining too much distance. But on the other hand too much proximity can mean an overreliance on the employee in the relationship. This latter kind of dynamic often presents itself in relationships between couples. It’s therefore essential to maintain the boundaries between your business and personal life to ensure a positive working relationship. Fostering the relationship however is critical – you don’t want find yourself in a situation where your employees are alienated from, or even harbor negative emotions towards you. So how do you find the sweet spot?

The family approach

My take on it is to let your employees be as close to you as you think is reasonable and comfortable. Consider for example a family as your guide – everyone is connected by love yet there is still a hierarchy in any functioning family. The parent will always have the final say. Though they might not be liked at the moment they take an unpopular decision, the parent is still loved and respected.

Let’s have some fun

Developing closeness among your team will ultimately lead to more fun, and with fun being the biggest driver of workplace productivity and the delivery of winning results, I believe it is a priority. Trust is also critical. For a team to function well, there must be all round trust among the people within it. It’s easier to create a trusting relationship with an individual when you share elements of your private life. Sharing is a good thing – when I feel someone is hiding something from me that creates feelings of doubt.

So with trust in place what rules governing relations between managers and employees should be maintained? What’s important to bear in mind is that the rules of engagement in the office should continue to apply outside of it. For example, if you’re out socialising with your colleagues, be prepared to share the same information outside the office as within it.

Ultimately when you create a relaxed environment, you create harmonious relationships within your team. Allowing the development of less formal relations and fostering more closeness among your team members will mean that others can relate to one another better, including yourself, and create more positive emotions all-round. Of course, it doesn’t mean that you will always be popular, but it will certainly be conducive to a more outstanding environment for the delivery of fantastic results!


Olaf Kapinski