Friend, Foe, or CEO: How to Define Relationships in the Workplace

Once again it's time to celebrate Oktoberfest! After-work parties are essential to keep up with the spirits of the season after everyone has returned from the relaxed summer mindset. Of course, it's one of my favorite times of year. Reconnecting with co-workers over anything and everything pumpkin spiced and the scary/chic office decor and the funny costumes make the workplace a bit more festive, fun and entertaining! We all need to not take ourselves so seriously sometimes. But as an entrepreneur with over 100 employees, I'm first and foremost always focused on running a successful business, and it's important to me to maintain clear boundaries with my staff.

I never want to blur the lines between professional and personal relationships at work. But enforcing where to draw that line can feel complicated especially with today's more casual work environments. How casual is too casual when it comes to coworkers? How do I convey friendliness and not favoritism? The attitude I put forward is that fairness needs to be universal in everything I do at work. Here are some pointers on just how I, as "boss lady", maintain the friend/colleague relationship balance to create a fun and productive work place.

• FAIRNESS FOR ALL. Linda's Stuff has an open-concept office space so when I interact with my employees, sometimes all eyes are on me. It's crucial that my decisions and actions are clear and consistent. Despite spending over 40 hours a week with my amazing employees, I have to remember that these are all professional relationships and not friendships.

• SENSE AND SENSIBILITY. There are many long-term employees that I've come to know well over the years. Although we may share a familiarity with each other, I hold each member of my staff to the same standards. I need to be sensitive and sensible at the same time. Office chit-chat about weekend plans is harmless but telling a colleague about the excessive amount you had to drink Saturday night is TMI!

• TO FRIEND OR NOT TO FRIEND. It's a social media world and we're just living in it. Our workplace policies have to adapt. I have a personal resolution to the dilemma of "should I post this?" or "can I friend this person?" and my motto is: wait for an invite. As CEO, I would never impose a friend request on Facebook or follower request on Instagram to any of my employees. However, if they seek me out - I'd be happy to accept. This allows employees to keep their personal lives private if they so choose and everyone is entitled to this form of #RESPECT.

• OFFICE POLITICS. During an election year, especially when the candidates receive as much attention as the one we are currently in, it's hard to escape the chaos, even at work. I firmly advocate tolerance for every employee. But, controversial topics such as politics or social issues can cause offense, however accidental they may be or what the intention. The workplace is just not an acceptable forum to discuss high-profile topics.

I hope you will take these tips with you to the office tomorrow morning and give a second thought to that water-cooler debate next week. Overall, lead by example and practice the golden rule in all areas of your life - play fair and treat your employees and co-workers how you would want to be treated.