I’ve written about professional boundaries before but this article inspires me to talk about it further. Just to be clear:
- Do not sleep with co-workers, subordinates, or people over whom you have power (Pastors: I’m talking about your parishioners, church visitors, wider Church committee members.)
- Do not share intimate details about your dating life, your sex life, or any other topic that makes you (the leader) “the patient.”
- Remember your role.
Having said this, we do not have to be tunnel-visioning, cold, dispassionate, secret-keeping, electric fence-building colleagues. I am a fan of being friends with colleagues and subordinates. There, I said it.
The difference between having no boundaries and having good boundaries is remembering our role.
Imagine these scenarios:
- Nobody in the office knows that your mother is having life-threatening surgery next week, so when your supervisor sends you to an out of town conference you miss being with your mother in the hospital. And now, you are deeply but secretly until-that-moment-when-you-explode-four-months-from-now resentful.
- Nobody in your office knows that you are getting a divorce, so the day those papers are signed and you have three big projects to do there is no support, no encouragement, no chocolate on your desk. And nobody knows not to bark at you when you seem distracted.
- Nobody in the office knows you have a dog so when your dog dies, it’s a big meh.
It’s not only okay to be friends (and not just “friendly”) in the office. It’s essential for the health of the organization.
Sometimes I need to say, “I’m putting on my supervisor hat on” in the midst of a conversation about a colleague’s date last weekend when I need to stop and remind her that we need to get that report done. I once was told by a colleague (as a friend) about her sick husband whose life-threatening situation she didn’t want to share with the rest of the church staff. I think I said something like, “I’m putting my boss hat on now, and I need you to share this with the rest of the staff so that we can know his surgery schedule (for our church planning) and so we can know to bring you gift cards to your favorite salon.”
The world is harsh, mean, and dysfunctional. Compassion-building is essential for a healthy team. Read. The. Article.
And don’t be fake.
Image is by Odile Escolier of Jesus walking on water. But I’d like to think that it’s also about getting into the boat with our people. (Bose Monastery, 2016)