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It is very important that we understand the differences between our personal and professional relationships. When we’re clear about this, we know what to expect from each type of interaction, and we’re likely to avoid the pitfalls inherent in confusing the two.

From the moment we are born, we have personal relations with our mother, father, brother, sister and the entire family. A professional relationship is an ongoing interaction between two people that observes a set of established boundaries or limits that is deemed appropriate under governing ethical standards. Establishing proper professional relationships is the backbone of career development.

While it’s true that in both personal and professional relationships, people should respect one another and strive to be reasonable, responsible and polite, it’s also true that beyond this, the two types of relationships diverge.

In personal relationships, we value the quality of the connection with the other person. The closeness is an object in itself. We spend time with friends and family because it feels good to be with them. We care about each other, want the best for each other and are there for each other. In our professional relationships, we might genuinely like the other person; we might even look out for each other and support one another. Still, this type of relationship is about helping the other person get ahead in their career.

The stakes are very different in the two types of relationships, as well: in a personal relationship, we risk being hurt or disappointed. In our professional relationships, our ideas could be stolen, our professional reputation could be undermined; we could even lose our job if we end up on the wrong side of a jealous or disgruntled supervisor or colleague. In personal relationships our pride is at risk; in professional ones our livelihood is, and this is why it’s so important to be that much more careful in the latter type of relationship. In our personal relationships we want to be open and straightforward. We want to be seen and appreciated for who we are. In professional relationships we need to be more strategic; we want to be well-liked, but not necessarily well-known. In the former type of relationship, we want to build closeness; in the latter, over-sharing could lead to information being used against us.

While I do know of many excellent professional relationships; for example, several in which a senior person has mentored a junior one, helping them significantly with their career. I’m also aware of at least as many examples of professional relationships in which people have been exploited, manipulated, ripped off and then discarded.

Jealousy and competitiveness, dishonesty and sabotage in the personal realm pale in comparison to how these can play out in the professional domain, and that’s why in professional relationships, we should never forget who we are and where we are. We should enjoy our professional associations and show appreciation to those who are generous with their mentoring, advice and support, but we should never lose sight of the fact that these people aren’t our family members or close, personal friends. If we’re clear about the differences between these two types of relationships, we can remain strategic and negotiate our professional relationships in ways that are conducive to our ongoing success.
We follow and communicate with friends, family, clients and prospects in unison from personal Twitter accounts and Facebook pages without thinking twice. Relationships and new business opportunities regularly grow from social media connections. But they can be damaged just as easily. Employees are a company’s most important asset – and one of its biggest liabilities.

Social media is an incredibly powerful communications tool. This is an undeniable fact. People share real-time thoughts and feelings as they engage with friends, followers and online communities. And because most employed adults spend the majority of their day working, they are naturally going to talk about some work-related experiences online.
In fact, recently I have seen people commenting and even complaining on LinkedIn, that it is a professional networking platform, so people should kindly keep it that way. It is not for making friends. Just the way, banks have a different set of rules for a Personal account and a Business (Corporate) account, we can adopt similar rules for our personal and professional relationships.

The real-world isn’t as structured as what is depicted with the differentiations in relationships. Some people fall into multiple categories (a manager and a mentor and a friend). However, having an understanding of the basic types of relationships can help you determine the purpose of the relationship and how to best leverage it for helping you succeed, not just at work, but in life.

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