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Keeping Your Distance March 12, 2012

Posted by Tim Rodgers in Management & leadership.
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One of the important things any new manager has to learn is the necessity of maintaining emotional distance from the folks who report to them. One day you’re in a peer group of individual contributors, and the next you’re a manager with positional power that includes work assignments, performance reviews, and salary administration. Suddenly there are secrets that have to be kept and information that can only be partially shared. Of course this is harder for some people than others, but generally we’re all social beings who want to be liked and appreciate some measure of external validation that we’re doing the right things. It’s an ongoing balancing act to communicate actively and stay engaged with the team, yet be separated enough to maintain the necessary objectivity. There’s a good reason why military officers and non-coms are discouraged from fraternizing with their subordinates.

This reminds me of something I heard after I got married. When you’re single, your friends are single. When you’re married, your friends are couples and married people. When you have children, your friends have children. The point is that you lose and gain friends along the way as your focus and interests change. The same kind of “natural selection” happens to our social relationships at work. After you become a manager your relationships with your former co-workers must change. Otherwise, your ability to support the business and the team will be seriously compromised.

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