Charlie, a manager at a cosmetics firm, reflects on the changing nature of his relationship with his employees during the current economic slowdown.
When I first arrived here four years ago, I was determined to be the kind of boss who people would genuinely like. I wanted my employees to see me as a friend—someone they could trust and confide in.
For the first two years, I largely succeeded. I inherited a good group of people and I hit it off with most of them. And I hired people who could double as my friends, where we had some compatibility that transcended the narrow confines of the job.
Everything was fine. Then the economy fell off a cliff.
With our business hitting the skids, all of us need to sacrifice. I’ve taken a 10 percent pay cut and urged certain employees to do the same. I’ve also scaled back spending on perks such as free snacks and soda in the office and scrutinized expense reports more closely.
Obviously, that’s not the best way to treat friends! Individuals who used to view me as an ally now think I’m some kind of villain. As much as I try to explain these are scary times that require drastic measures, everyone seems to personalize my actions and resent me as a result.
Yeah, I know: It was a mistake to befriend my employees. You cross a line and then it’s hard to back up and make painful decisions that affect their lives. I keep saying, “Look, this is the hand we’re dealt. Let’s work together to make the best of it.”