In The Workplace

I’m the vice-president for operations of a small factory in Cavite. Recently, I was requested by one of our workers to be a godfather at his wedding. I was a bit reluctant and told him I will seek the advice of our human resources (HR) department. Unfortunately, our HR manager can’t think of any downside. He even told me it is bad luck to decline such invitations. What do you think? — Lone Ranger.

If you want to establish a close, long, and positive work relationship with your workers, then you must develop a short memory. The trouble is that your workers may have a long memory that they could use to their advantage in due time. Think about it. What are the possible repercussions if you turn a professional relationship into something that borders on kinship with God as the witness?

Whether that worker reports to you or through another line manager, that employee may think he can take advantage of his relationship with you in many ways. For instance, what if that employee seeks approval for one week of leave during off-peak production season, which under normal circumstances, you would approve.

The trouble is that you may be conscious of what other workers would say, such as: “This guy is special. We can’t even file for sick leave, but our friend must have extra powers to be given such privilege.” Even under normal circumstances, it’s not easy to turn people down. You may find yourself approving requests even when it is not in the best interest of the organization. Or even if it is in the best interests, many people would suspect something irregular is going on.

Of course, every manager wants to be liked by his workers. When you have good rapport with employees, it’s easy to work with them and they are likely to reciprocate by being loyal to you and the organization. There’s no question about it. But we don’t know what the future might bring.

So take the time to think things through. The circumstances may vary from time to time, but in general, the following points should be helpful in arriving at a firm and objective solution to your current predicament:

One, distinguish professional work relationships from social relationships. That way, when the employee has done something wrong, you can easily call his attention without much wavering. If you don’t, it will be a no-win situation for you.

Two, highlight how such a relationship can work against the employee’s interests. If the employee is due for promotion or has performed beyond expectations to merit a pay increase, it would be difficult for some people to understand that management has made an objective decision. Chances are, there will be critics, led by those who were bypassed for promotion.

Three, establish a formal policy against similar requests from workers. Without one, what would prevent other workers from making such a request? If you accept an invitation to be a godfather at one wedding, expect a deluge of other requests that could hamper the company’s operations in the future.

Last, be as positive as possible when turning down such requests. Explain your position. Don’t let your emotions get in the way. If you appear to vacillate, there’s a chance the worker will press on with his request, or show disappointment. However, if you hold your ground, he could end up understanding your position.

People with higher economic status are the favorite targets to serve as godparents in weddings and other Christian rites. It’s part of our tradition. Many of us take advantage of the situation by focusing on those who appear to be approachable and wield some form of power. Outside of the workplace, this is understandable.

When you bring this kind of relationship into the workplace or even if you’re forced into it, there could be negative repercussions that could affect labor and management relations. Many times, the approach is initiated by the workers themselves. It can happen due to a mistaken belief workers can use the relationship to their advantage.

Managers being friendly with workers is desirable. It is a clear manifestation of a happy, enjoyable, and productive workplace. It is always good to perpetuate open, friendly two-way communication based on mutual concern and respect. However, if a worker intends to go beyond the boundaries and invites his boss to be a godparent, or in some cases invites the boss to meet the family on a regular basis or talks about intimate family details, then that must be considered a no-no.

If that happens, managers must know how to put a stop to it, if they can’t do it with clear limitations. More important, there should be no preferential treatment for anyone.


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