Striking a balance between friendship and professionalism at the workplace

There is a fine line between being friends and treating colleagues with professionalism. Especially when points of view differ.

The ELT world is full of active communities and groups who meet at conferences or even for a ‘night out’ in order to share ideas in a more relaxed way. And one of the things I love the most is that surely when we are together, we are stronger. To begin with, we make our living by sharing our knowledge with our students and sometimes, we even share pieces of advice with our students’ parents or school teachers and most often we share our lessons with our fellow teachers. We rely on the human relation to survive, I would say.

However, professionalism is repeatedly mistaken by friendship and many a time this is when everything tends to go south. For instance, how are we supposed to maintain professionalism when your ‘alleged friends’ stop saying ‘hello’ or ‘bye’ simply because they disagree with what you have to say? Or furthermore, when you do not like a person (for your own reasons) how do you treat that person inside your company during work hours?

I will share some points that according to the Forbes Magazine they may change our minds as to whether keeping only the professionalism in the workplace should suffice.

1) Having fallouts

As I mentioned before, having turmoils is common amongst friends. Now, imagine having fallouts with co-workers. It may create an uncomfortable and most often an unbearable environment and then professionalism takes its distance. Even more complicated if one of you has a position of power over the other. 

2) Conflict of interests

Well, everybody knows it is very easy to preserve a friendship when there are no conflicts. Notwithstanding, you must remember at all times that in your workplace there is always someone trying to pull the rug from under your feet (unrestrictedly to what position you hold).

3) Respect

If you are a manager, a coordinator or a school owner, you will have to set professional boundaries, otherwise, employees might have a harder time to respect your authority (when it has to be asserted). Or even worse, in my point of view, you may be blinded by the friendship factor and end up playing favourites. I have seen it happen thousands of times! To be friendly and respectful is afar different from being or becoming friends.

Inside this big family that is the ELT world, how do you separate professionalism from friendship?  

Beatriz Solino de Francisco

Beatriz holds Mod II Delta certificate and she has a Licentiate’s degree in English Language from PUC SP (2007). CPE level of proficiency and she has been teaching for 14 years. She has also been working as an Adults/Advanced courses Coordinator for 4 years at Cultura Inglesa Jundiaí.

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