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Friendship is a relational expectation in society that develops early in life. Parents want their children to develop friendships in their neighbourhoods, at school, on the sports team they join, and later on at college or university. In childhood, friendships teach us about sharing, equality, inclusivity, collaboration and kindness. They also assist us in learning to develop a strong support system beyond one’s immediate family.

By adulthood, most of us are actually unconscious to the fact that the expectations we have about workplace friendships are rooted in childhood friendships.  We are also blind to the fact that males and females have different rules for friendship.

Male friendship rules are more focused on doing and being transactional and hierarchical. They are more concerned with “the right way to be”. They value competition and respect a hierarchy. Their focus is more likely on getting the job done than attending to feelings or fairness.

Female friendship rules are based on an equality structure and acceptance. Women expect unswerving loyalty, build strong alliances by sharing personal information and gossip, and promote the concept of collaboration by being helpful.  The biggest unspoken rule about women’s friendship is that we don’t discuss the rules and boundaries of friendship. As a result, friendship expectations can come crashing down in the hierarchical business world.

Women need to learn to operate in a hierarchical world where there are women in power. I often ask my female clients if they want to be a friend, a leader or a friendly leader to their subordinates and ask them to reflect on how each concept would dictate their behaviors. The reverse is also true, what does a female subordinate expect from a female manager.

Here are a few coaching tips when managing women:

1. Be friendly and relational with female staff. Encourage friendly behaviors and discourage cliques

2. Share some personal information with limits (avoid over sharing)

3. Be sensitive to cultural differences about self-disclosing

4. Negotiate friendship expectations if you had a personal friendship prior to managing the individual

5. To build a strong team, spend time developing a shared vision of a strong performing team. Flesh out the rules of engagement between team members in order to achieve high performance. How will they support and challenge each other? How will they deal with the fact that they may compete as a team and individually?

6. Attend to conflict. Agree on mechanisms to resolve conflict and address them in a timely fashion. Do not brush conflict under the rug.

Consider these tips when developing friendships in your work environment. To learn more about managing workplace relationships, contact a professional coach at info@forgecoachingandconsulting.com or call Manon Dulude at 905-873-9393.

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