hands texting with mobile phones in cafe

Working in a business that merges my social life quite often makes it nearly impossible to keep my personal life separate. This is especially true for the self-employed. But this is relevant to many in the workplace too, especially in a culture where everything we do is shared on social media.

I think it’s great that it’s a lot easier to find and build connections with those we work with thanks to social media which allows us to see a little more deeper into the lives of others.
Simply follow them on Instagram or twitter or add them as a friend on Facebook and suddenly both your worlds merge – BOOM.
You can finally see a little more behind that colleague of yours that has sparked your fancy and for obvious reasons! Not only does she have a wardrobe that you covet, love traveling and art and share photos of quotes that almost always speak to you, but you also noticed that she also shares many other similar interests. Total spirit animal.

Maybe you chose to follow them because they seem like you’d have lots in common or simply because you have done or want to do business with this person and just looking to dive a little deeper in your online relationship. Makes sense. And totally normal; in fact, it’s a great way to potentially solidify future collaborations because you would get to know one another a little better and the foundation of trust is slowly but surely building.
But there are repercussions to being socially adept in your work life.
We need to remember the invisible fine line between business and personal relationships.

I’ll tell you why this fine line is something you cannot ignore.
For one, I know this because once upon a time I use to work in human resources and I remember seeing and having to deal with so many workplace disputes that stemmed from folks that abused the business and personal relationship and ended up getting burned in some way.
And two, I’ve fallen victim to this more than once when I trusted too much, too soon, and also failed to remember that it’s important to be amiable with those you are working with (whether co-workers or clients), perhaps even chummy at times, but we cannot confuse the two. That’s where the potential issues start.

I’m not saying be a robot (and I’ve also worked with these types and trust me, it’s not pleasant) or completely cloistered (I’m an introvert so there is a fine line between this for me as well), because building and maintaining relationships is crucial to your career — ask the most successful business folks out there and they’ll tell you it’s true.
What I’m saying is to just be diligent with how you approach and cultivate your relationships, both online and in-person.

How to do this?

1) Set Apart Your Social Media Profiles

Open a Facebook Business Page for promoting your work and try to keep your actual Facebook profile for family, friends or close colleagues only.

I’m a total hypocrite here because I’ve bounced around on this for a while (friends list deleting, re-adding, deleting, re-adding… and that doesn’t look good), and I probably should listen to my words but this is a tricky yet important tip so take it with a grain of salt and run with it however you see best.

Here’s why it’s important: You don’t want to share too much of your work on your personal page and annoy your friends and family members (and yes, they will be annoyed), or potentially come across as unprofessional to potential prospects.

Twitter, Instagram and SnapChat are different beasts altogether.
I think it’s a bit more lenient for you to fuse your personal and professional posts if done in a smart way and not overkilling it on the personal photos of your kids’ latest feats (although it’s nice to see them every now and then – I share mine proudly!) or what you’re eating for lunch (have been guilty on this too…) or the opposite which is too many promotional or sponsored posts not allowing your audience (whether close friends or not) to see the human or authenticity behind your handle.

2) Separate Your Email Accounts

Email jungles are alive and well but even Tarzan won’t step foot in yours because it’s far too confusing.
Invest in a custom domain and email for your work and use your business email account to communicate strictly with those related to your profession. Reserve your personal email for those you’d communicate with outside of work.

3) Be Professional Yet Personable

Anything you put online is an open book for everyone to see. I strongly believe that your personal brand should reflect who you are everywhere.
It’s okay to show the world who you are without overdoing it and baring your entire soul online, and it’s great to step up your relationships and have more than one dinner or coffee with a client or colleague but just remember that you want the relationship to continue and you want them to respect and trust you, so stay professional, will yah?
Many times business relationships do slowly turn into actual friendships (I have lots of personal and professional friendships!) but some people tend to jump in and divulge too much too soon. It’s a recipe for disaster and potentially even burned bridges.
Just be discreet.
Oh, and try not to overdo the wine at your next biz dinner. 🙂
Remember they are your business associates first.

4) Disconnect from Tech

This is easy yet complicated. Perhaps even fictional these days.
But it’s a necessity for your overall well-being. This is important for those that take a lot of their work home and remotely.
Much like leaving the office on time instead of working overtime every single day where you are seeing your work peeps constantly. Possibly even more than your own partner or children.
You need a break from your work life and need to shift the focus on equally if not more important matters — your actual family and friends. And even yourself. Take a hike or go for a jog around the neighbourhood, schedule a fun family night the same night every weekday for your kids to look forward to, take a long bubble bath with wine and some jazz… just disconnect.

5) Stay Away From Herd Mentality

This is a big one. And unfortunately, it happens all the time. It’s how many marketing agencies gain their profits.
However, non-professional people tend to exhibit herd mentality most because they gain superficial respect and influence — they adopt certain behaviours and follow trends because of the imprint from their closest peers. And what makes this a professional concern is when it translates to their business, their brand and their audience/consumers.
It builds warped professional and personal relationships and doesn’t allow you to experience more (more prospects, more ideas, more creativity!).

Social pressure is undeniably strong and often sucks even the most well-intentioned folks into a nasty web of notoriety which in turn creates a blurred line between professional and personal connections.
Staying away or being mindful when approaching others that possess the herd mentality will be beneficial to your personal brand and reputation.

Have you ever had an experience in the past where the fine line was crossed?
Do you have your own tips and thoughts on this topic? I’d love to hear them below!

4 Comments on The Fine Line Between Business and Personal Relationships

  1. Some great tips, I agree that it is important to keep your personal and work/business relationships separate. You do have to be very careful in today’s social online world.

  2. Thanks for the advice! I strongly believe too to keep work and social separate. Especially after being burned once….

    • Thanks, Maggie. Oh yes, I’m sure we’ve all been burned one too many times in the past neglecting to remember the fine line. We can’t help it though because we are social creatures and enjoy building and growing relationships. Just need to be a little more careful around business relationships. 🙂

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