Professional boundaries

There are people who claim to love you and want the best for you, but if given the opportunity to elevate you, they would do anything but that. The working/corporate world is full of them. Sadly.

When we are younger, we spend a large chunk of our day either in a school or around one. We have friends we hang out with and those we don’t. We usually have a fair idea who our ‘haters’ are and do our best to avoid them.

As we grow older, we spend time both at school and in a working environment. We learn to make money and smile at people we do not like. We also learn to polish the truth so it sounds even better or just lie to customers to increase sales.

After school, whether or not we graduate, we work. There, we spend as much time as we did at school, sometimes more. We make new friends from different backgrounds. We call them colleagues now, or our network. The more influence they have over our income, the harder we laugh at their jokes, whether or not we find them funny (we usually don’t).

As time goes by, we accept the reality that our work friends might never be our real life friends. Which sucks because we spend most of our adult lives with them. We may go for lunch together or plan a goodbye party for a boss, or even show them cute pictures of our family and/or pet, but we would probably never view them as our friends outside of work.

A couple of years ago, after starting a popcorn business, my mother and I opened a bar and restaurant. After a couple of bad turns, firing everyone and closing down for a while, then reopening and handling everything on our own, we decided to hire again. This time, I didn’t think of our new employees as friends. I understood that however cool they might think I am, I had to be professional.

What does it mean to be professional? Does it mean that I wasn’t making jokes or laughing at theirs? No. It meant that we could laugh and make jokes and everything, but at the end of the day, I was their employer and there was a line. It meant that when they made mistakes, I pointed them out instead of looking the other way or trying to make excuses. It meant that I wasn’t going to ask them where they were last night or who they were with, but if they were sick or had a problem, I would listen and offer assistance or advice where applicable.

I am still trying to understand what it means to be professional yet friendly. I am still learning to draw the lines and have boundaries. It’s a learning process.

How do you remain professional yet cordial in your working environment? Any tips for a struggling working class citizen?

Dr Nyameba 💜

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