Should Your Foreman Drink With His Crew?
I came up that same road years ago and experienced the trials and tribulations of trying to be a good boss and stay friends with the people I worked with, as well as those who worked for me. I asked a lot of questions, but usually got conflicting answers along with a multitude of opinions. Through trial and error, coupled with evening management courses (even though they were not directly related to our construction industry), I accumulated some effective do's and don'ts that I used to train hundreds of supervisors in our own company.
Since 1972, I have been sharing these management basics with thousands of supervisors throughout all 50 states and most of Canada. Naturally, there are many aspects of jobsite supervision that we cover and discuss. Interesting enough, everybody wants to know, "Should the boss drink with his crew?"
Go And Have FunIt's the one question that boils down the circumstances of being a boss and friend at the same time. In every one of my foreman training seminars, we get all kinds of responses to that question. What really surprises most of them is my response: I am highly in favor of having a drink with your crew — just as long as you take a common-sense approach to it.
From starting time to quitting time, you are the boss. Your company is paying you to assure that it receives a full eight hours of work from each eight-hour paycheck, and that each employee is safe from injury. Only at the end of each day can you be friends with the crew in a way that won't affect the way you treat them as their boss.
You can enjoy what you wish to do, including drinking alcoholic beverages. Naturally, you must not participate or get involved in any use of illegal drugs. You also need to prevent anyone from driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol.
In addition to these legal parameters, you should never talk shop when you're socializing with your employees. Anything even casually discussed about your job, and especially about jobsite personnel, will be repeated with your credentials for having said it or "agreeing" to whatever is discussed. Whenever the subject of work comes up, always change the subject. Talk about sports, politics, family, vacation, etc.
Socializing with your employees is generally not an option for bosses who travel a reasonable distance from their home to their jobsite, unless you have friends or employees who also live in that vicinity. When your foreman or jobsite supervisor is living away from home on a remote jobsite the reverse is common.
I personally spent almost four years living at remote jobsites away from my family. This provided lots of spare time after working hours to have fun and relax. We had other company employees away from home who were also looking for after-hours relaxation. We fished, played golf, went to movies, hunted, watched Little League ballgames, etc. We also enjoyed socializing with local employees who were hired at the site.
Every one of your crew members has different desires and likes different types of enjoyment. Some of them want only to spend all their spare time at a bar and some will not even go into a bar.
Socializing with the crew is exceptionally difficult for the recently promoted foreman who used to be "one of the guys." There is also negative peer pressure from fellow workers who consider socializing as "buttering up" the boss for special favors.
Respect FirstProbably the most frustrating mistake that untrained foremen make is trying to get their employees to like them. Many foremen sacrifice discipline for the sake of that friendship.
What I stress in all my foreman training seminars is respect, not friendship.
People will like or dislike you for a hundred different reasons besides how you act as a boss. A foreman will never gain a friend or lose one as someone's boss. The only thing a foreman can gain or lose with subordinates is "respect," mostly from the discipline he is sacrificing.
What it all boils down to is being fair, but firm. Whatever rules or policies the company requires must be enforced equally. This creates respect.
Construction has always been a major part of my life and I love it as well as most of the people with whom I have worked.
I have always been flattered when any of my employees invited me to join them after working hours. I have thoroughly enjoyed their companionship and never forgot my responsibility of being their boss. They respected that and we've remained good friends for all of these years.