The Supervision Exchange

& Supervisors' Guild

A lot of us operate our services with a small staff and we want the culture to feel like a home, right?  “We are like family!”

Spoiler Alert:  There’s nothing wrong with that!

Slow down alert:  There are still limits.

Think about the hitches for a moment.  If you are feeling like a family, would you cross the line when talking back to your boss?  Would you tell a board member when a director is acting unethically?  What would it take to fire an employee? 

Harvard Business Review posted two studies that these scenarios are entirely true.  One here and one here.  Families can be toxic too, and family-style workplaces can also slip into toxic spaces.

Their advice?  Instead of loyalty, push fairness.  Instead of sticking by their co-worker no matter what, they should know everyone will be treated fairly regardless.  Do you see how this could reduce fear within the organization?  Have you ever connected loyalty and fear before?  

What else can you do to promote a tight-knit team without the “family” piece?

  • Remember their names.
  • Remember important dates.
  • Be flexible.
  • Be a mentor (if a supervisor).
  • Communication is everything (needs to be more direct than how people typically communicate in family life, more on that in another article).
  • Forgive/Learn from mistakes.

Okay, those are some great things to do, but we are talking about boundaries.  Where you are not allowed to go with co-workers in the workplace?

Don’t ask someone to do something without pay.  Don’t do something without pay.

Don’t ask someone to lie for you.  Don’t lie for someone else.

Don’t ask someone to hide something for you.  Don’t hide something.

Don’t tell something to someone for someone (that tricky triangle).  

Don’t take away someone’s voice.  

Don’t be rude, immature, or demoralizing.

Do not enter a romantic relationship, especially in a supervisory/employee situation.

Don’t hold grudges.

What other advice do you have?

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