Have you ever had to remind someone that your relationship with them is strictly professional? Just a few weeks ago I had to let a coworker know that I don’t respond to any text messages after working hours, or to any messages that aren’t work-related. First of all, the only reason we exchanged numbers is so that we could inform one another if we were ever running late for work. This was a situation where there was absolutely no reason for me to befriend this coworker, and I also felt that being just friends wasn’t really on his agenda so I responded accordingly. As women in the working world, I think that it’s imperative for us to be firm and transparent with our intentions in professional relationships. Whether it’s a co-worker, client, supervisor, business partner, or any other form of a professional relationship we have to be clear from the beginning that this relationship is strictly business. From dropping hints that they would like to date you to being obnoxiously demanding—people that display this type of behavior, especially when they are clients, are difficult to work with and can make your job uncomfortable. So how do we maintain a healthy professional relationship? Here are 3 ways to keep your professional relationships strictly professional:
- Set Boundaries- BOUNDARIES! This will probably be the most important factor in maintaining a healthy professional relationship. You need to make it clear of when you’re available and how often. For example, I made it clear that when I’m off work I will not be responding to any messages, even if they are work-related. This lets my coworker see that I was only interested in a relationship while at work, nothing else. Let’s say you have a business and a client messages you at 1am…it’s okay to ignore their message and respond whenever you start your working day! Not only does this keep the relationship professional, it allows you to avoid work-related burn-out (stress). It’s up to you to decide what you will or won’t tolerate, but tolerating any messages after midnight is risky in business. Don’t make yourself feel obligated to be available, and remember nothing is an “emergency” unless it’s life-threatening or extremely detrimental to the success of your business.
- Set the Tone- While it’s okay to befriend those you’re dealing with professionally, it’s up to you to determine the tone of the relationship. What conversations are off limits? If you hang out with them, what places are off limits? If your client invites you to a family function, are you going? You have to be firm and consistent when setting the tone in regards to intimacy in your professional relationships. The type of tone that’s set is really unique to the professional; this means you need to be well-versed in self-knowledge and self-awareness. It’s best for you to find a tone that fits your personality and professional style (by style I mean the way that you operate), but if you’re looking for a blueprint here’s one that will work no matter what: keep the tone of the relationship as cordial as you can.
- Be Wary of Self-Disclosure- You may want to limit how much you tell about yourself. I believe that the more personal information you share in your business relationships, the more personal those relationships become. If you’re looking to keep things strictly professional, stay away from partaking in gossip and too much self-disclosure.
These are just a few simple ways to keep things all about the business in your professional relationships. Depending on your profession, maintaining healthy professional relationships can play a key part in your success. Remember, you have control over your relationships, and don’t feel bad for being firm! It’s not personal, it’s business.
Written By: Kahina Ray