We learn a lot in school, but unfortunately, information about work relationships is usually not offered, much less required, reading. Once you get into the working world, you may run into people who are difficult or don’t play by the rules. Here are some tips you were probably never taught in school.
1. Do your due diligence before letting your guard down with colleagues. Avoid people who are manipulative or who color the truth to show themselves in a better light. Steer clear of those who play “let’s get what we can.” One bad relationship can ruin your entire career. Keep things light and positive in the workplace.
2. Never forget to keep professional relationships professional. Attending a graduation or even a wedding is appropriate, but leave before the reception. Showing your respect is different from socializing. You may have a friendship at work, but most business relationships are not personal. Generally, it’s good to know your boundaries.
3. Try to remain objective in the workplace. For example, if you are working with a few people and find yourself siding with one or another, you have developed a bias. It may even be for good reason, but taking sides will do nothing to reduce the conflict and may draw you into something that will not help you move forward.
4. Know the difference between a friend, a client and a customer. A friend is someone you have a personal or a social relationship with, whereas a client is someone who is under your care. A customer is someone who buys a product or a service from you. Best to not confuse one kind of relationship with another.
5. Remember that being a good person is not a 9-to-5 job. If your co-workers think you are wonderful and superhuman, but you lose your temper as soon as you get home, please rethink your priorities. All business relationships end, but family is forever.
6. If someone asks you for a loan, just say no. Life and success are not about the money, but money is almost always an issue, and loaning money is usually not a good idea. Friends may ask you to donate your time to a cause. Some pro bono work is a good thing, but there is a cost to the energy you expend, and you need to value your work as a professional.
7. Never date (or have an affair) with a client or a customer. Getting involved will complicate and maybe damage both your lives. There are so many people looking for uncomplicated relationships that it just doesn’t make sense to be with someone who may make your life more difficult.
8. Never take your clients’ advise. Stock tips, dating sites, business ideas, all are off-limits. Your clients are confused about boundaries if they’re offering you these things. Again, remember they are your clients for a reason, so be the consummate professional.
9. Don’t be afraid to fire a client. Disagreements are to be expected, but if someone is disagreeable, you don’t need them in your life. It might be an uncomfortable business decision, but think of it as just making room for new people.
10. Do your job right and treat everyone respectfully. Everyone grows, including you, when you do this. Being your best self will help others who approach you, and it will help you find the answers you need to make your work-life the way you want it to be.
These tips will work for you whether you are self-employed, at entry level or are the boss. They will also help you balance your personal and professional relationships. You have a lot to offer, and the world needs you to share your gifts. That is how you will find happiness.
Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author of “The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time.”