Dear Metro: "It's lonely at the top when you own a small business"
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I’d like some advice about loneliness and the mental or social problems surrounding loneliness when you run your own business. You can’t exactly be friends with your employees, and I find myself at work a lot. You also can’t exactly be best buddies with your customers or suppliers. It’s extremely lonely at the top of the business hierarchy. Co-workers will often ask others to their parties and get togethers, but rarely invite a boss. We spend on average more time with our colleagues in a week than our own friends in real life. This leaves of course making new friends outside of work, which is more difficult in this day and age it seems as everyone has a digital and online presence, and nobody seems to want to leave their home.
So how can I go about changing and making new friends? What avenues would you suggest?
I really feel for you – loneliness is one of the most desperate emotions you can experience, and when it hits hard it can be really intense.
You’re absolutely right when you say your working relationship with your employees makes it hard to be friends with them the way they are with each other. In fact, I’d argue it’s actually impossible because you, ultimately, have power over them making it an unequal relationship.
The ideal version of your relationship with your employees is you being a good boss who treats them with respect and kindness. In that vein, is there anyone working for you who could be offered a more senior position, to help you manage your business and reduce the hours you need to be there? If time is a major issue for you, one of the joys the autonomy owning your own business brings is that there are ways to free yourself up through smart management choices which you have total control over. If that seems impossible, maybe you need to reassess what you’re getting out of your business, and whether on balance it’s worth keeping.
It’s true that as we get older our day to day world becomes a little smaller. But could your perception everyone stays in online and doesn’t leave the house be projecting? As annoying as it is, meeting people and making friends means you have to put yourself out there – once you do, you’ll see a lot of others are out there too. Open yourself up to new experiences. Say yes when you’d usually say no. Look online for local groups pertaining to your interests – or ones which don’t, but sound like they could be fun.
Don’t forget to nurture the friendships you already have. Most of us don’t have more than a very small handful of truly close friends, but those relationships can help more with our sense of connection than a wider circle of acquaintances ever could. If you’re feeling sad and isolated, organise a low key hang out with an old friend who makes you feel known and comforted.
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