Women in business have business relationships with clients, colleagues, partners, employees, and vendors. Relationships are an essential part of their work, and in order to keep their businesses on an even keel, it is important to know when and how to manage the blurry line between personal and professional relationship status.
Case in point: Nancy hires Violet as her first administrative assistant. Violet would be responsible for customer service, website maintenance, and calendar scheduling. Nancy was not only impressed by Violet’s background and experience, but she also felt an immediate kindred, sister-like connection with her. Similarly, Violet felt the same about Nancy and was very keen to do everything she could to help Nancy grow her business.
Nancy and Violet work together for three years. In that time, Violet performed her job well and continued taking on more and more responsibility. Nancy felt supported and continued handing things off to Violet. Since the beginning of their relationship, Nancy often talked about her personal life with Violet, and Violet accordingly listened and supported Nancy. Subsequently, Violet began sharing some personal stories with Nancy. Violet felt Nancy was someone she could trust, someone with whom she really enjoyed working, and she imagined they’d be working together for a very long time.
Violet starting slipping on a few of her duties due to some personal problems. Violet realized this was happening, but she was caught up in a very stressful situation that could not easily be resolved. Still, she knew she’d be back on the ball before too long, and though she felt she might talk to Nancy about such things, she was embarrassed and unsure about doing so. So she kept to herself and hoped all would work itself out.
Then a few weeks later, out of the blue, Nancy called Violet and told her she was letting her go – with no explanation and no offer of a conversation to discuss the matter. She simply said her services were no longer required. Violet was shaken to the core. Although she knew she was not performing 100%, she knew she was keeping up with all the priority work, and the bulk of everything that was necessary for running Nancy’s business.
She was dumbfounded by Nancy’s tone and the fact that there was no option to speak with her about the situation. And though she mourned the loss of a job she truly loved doing, she was more emotionally scarred by the fact that she lost a key relationship with a woman she believed was her friend.
This situation ended up being a no-win for both Nancy and Violet. If you decide to share personal information with others at work, be very careful how and when you do so. Be clear about the rules and boundaries that you need in place to keep the relationship productive and healthy.
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