1.3b Explain how a working relationship is different from a personal relationship

This page is designed to answer the following questions:

There are several differences between working relationships and personal relationships.

Difference between working and personal relationships

Working relationshipsPersonal relationships
Limited choice of whom you work withFree choice of who you choose to be your friends
Cannot be intimateCan be intimate
Bound by professionalism, policies and duty of careOnly personal boundaries
Limited by location e.g. office, care home etc.Not limited to particular locations
Limited by time e.g. shifts, meetings etc.Unlimited times that individuals may choose to associate
Purpose is to meet individual's care needs and no morePurpose is to provide mutual pleasure
Unequal balance - care worker will know more about an individualUsually equally balanced between individuals

Personal Relationships

Personal relationships are the unpaid, social relationships that you have with your family and friends. These are informal relationships and you have the choice about whether you want to maintain them or not. Physical contact such as touching, hugging and kissing is appropriate in these types of relationships as is the giving and receiving of gifts

Working relationships

Conversely, working relationships are the formal relationships that you have with the clients you support, their family, your managers and co-workers and outside agencies. Unless you are a volunteer, you will be paid for your role. Physical contact will limited and records will be kept. Gifts should not be given or received. Very often, you will know more about the client (for the purpose of supporting them effectively) than they know about yourself.

Example question and answer

Explain the difference between working relationships and personal relationships

The relationships a health & social care employee have at work differ greatly from the personal relationships they may have outside of work. Working relationships are governed by professional boundaries including:

  • Legislation (e.g. the Data Protection Act 1998 prohibits the sharing of personal information that an employee may be privy to as part of their job)
  • Employer’s policies and procedures
  • Professional codes of conduct (e.g. the GSCC Codes of Practice for Social Workers)

I have provided a copy of my company’s Professional Relationships Policy & Procedure as evidence.

Personal relationships are much less formal and more emotive and can involve intimate touching and expression that would be illegal in a health & social care setting. In addition, a person can choose who they associate with outside work, whereas they have much less choice whilst at work and may have to work with people they do not particularly like.

It is important not to confuse working relationships with personal relationships as this could lead to an employee being biased, either positively or negatively, whilst making work-related decisions or carrying out their job responsibilities. It could also result in breaking the law or disciplinary action.