Even with an Ivy league education and years of experience under your belt, there’s one thing you can never prepare for once you become the boss. From a new office to a generous salary increase, transitioning from colleague to executive provides certain perks that you’ve worked your entire career for. Unfortunately, it also comes with a price that has nothing to do with your paycheck.
Leadership and loneliness go hand-in-hand. As the person in charge, it’s inevitable that you’ll be treated with a different regard than when you were a regular member of the team. Those daily 3pm coffee breaks and happy hour invitations are no longer being extended, and your water cooler conversations have become trivial small talk. You’re no longer one of the gang. You’re one of them.
Going from the inner circle to the outsider can be emotionally tolling, especially for those who didn’t see it coming. It’s natural to feel rejected when your former department is laughing in the lunch room while you’re stuck on a call, wondering what’s so funny. But before you start internalizing that being left out is a sign that you’re a bad boss, what many don’t tell you is that feeling excluded is often a sign that you’re doing things right.
You can be a boss or you can be a friend, but you can’t be both. Those that try to wear both hats will soon realize that it causes more headaches and problems than if you had just kept a neutral position. So while your seat is no longer saved in the lunch room, there are many benefits to staying out of the office in-crowd.
There’s no conflict of interest.
When your friends are your employees, things gets complicated very quickly. Giving negative feedback is difficult to do in the first place, but when you’ve just accepted an invitation to their child’s birthday party, it gets even harder. If it’s starting to sting that your staff keeps you at arm’s length, just remember this actually helps everyone do their jobs without emotional bias. Plus it will avoid any accusations of favoritism amongst the team.
The team will bond.
Even if you’re the best leader in the world, at some point your staff are going to talk about you behind your back. Inevitably you will make a decision that not everyone will agree with, and even if it was made in the interest of the company and garnered a successful outcome, those that are in disagreement will likely start whispering. It never feels good to know that you’re the topic of conversation, but think of the big picture: staff need to bond over something, and it will likely be you. So let it go.
You can achieve work/life balance.
Leaders are under a lot of pressure. It can be hard enough to make it to the dinner table, let alone unplug from the job completely. So when you start hanging out with friends from work outside of work, you’re bound to talk about (what else?) work. While it may seem impossible at times, it’s so important to keep your work life and personal life separate whenever possible.
While boundaries are important, be careful not to completely shut yourself off from the team. Bonding outside of the office shows that you’re invested in these relationships, which is why it’s perfectly okay to accept an invitation and occasionally go for a drink — but just one. You never want to overdo it, especially when it comes to alcohol. No one wants to see their boss spilling their personal secrets to the new intern.
Though it may sting at first, just because you’re no longer invited to lunch doesn’t mean that you’re a bad leader. It’s just one of those things that comes with the title, so don’t take it personally. And more importantly, accept it, because the more you try and be liked, the more you’ll compromise your role and respect from the team.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.