Should you be friends with your boss or not? This is an interesting topic for debate.
Many years ago, I worked with a professional coach — a woman — whom I appreciated a lot.
At one point she asked me what kind of relationship I had with my boss. I mentioned that we were getting along really great. So much so actually that my boss had recently suggested it would be fun to go for a bike ride sometime, since we both loved the sport. I went on to further explain to my coach however that I had skillfully found a way to refuse. Being much more comfortable with sticking to a professional type of relationship.
On this particular subject, my coach disagreed with me. Seeing absolutely no problem with manager employee friendships, and trying to convince me that my approach was a bit too conservative.
But I can tell you that over more than 25 years of working in a corporate environment, my opinion has remained the same. I don’t want to be friends with my boss.
What it Means to Be a Friend
When I’m friends with someone, it means I share personal stuff, and have very casual and open conversations on just about any subject — including politics and religion.
Also, there’s this kind of unspoken rule that allows me and a friend to disagree on something, without it having any consequence whatsoever on our friendship.
In order to avoid hurting my friend’s feelings, I will be very careful as to how I express myself if ever I have a more sensitive matter to address.
I’ll invite my friends over to the house on weekends, and may even travel occasionally with them.
That kind of friendship, I do not wish to have with my boss.
Friendship With Your Boss Can Complicate Things
No matter how fabulously well you get along with your boss, he or she will always FIRST be your boss.
And, with that role comes authority. Authority to make the last call on a decision, even when you strongly disagree. Authority to ultimately fire you — which may sound extreme, but it’s a fact.
If things get rough, and your boss/friend tells you straight out the approach you took on a project was wrong, how will you react? In my case, I know for a fact that it will be more difficult to handle. Criticism is never pleasant. But when it comes from a friend, it hurts more because we take it more personal. Then we start analyzing the ‘why’, and ‘what’s happening with our friendship’.
Whereas, when there’s no friendship involved, the unpleasant conversation will have been just that. Once the discussion is over, you’ll stick to the facts and move on.
Let’s not forget either that being friends with your boss might also put him or her in a difficult position, and make things more complicated to handle than it should normally be in a work environment.
Aim for a Professional and Friendly Relationship
Sharing a bit of personal information with your boss is not a mistake in itself. It’s sharing too much of it that can come back to bite you.
It’s a question of knowing where to draw the line.
For example, on a one-on-one conversation, I would not talk about problems I have at home in a detailed way. I might just tell my boss that things are rough with the kids, but not elaborate much more. The idea is to show you are in control, able to take the pressure and perform at work, no matter what is happening in your personal life.
Ideally you want to establish a great working relationship. Show collaboration, support, be there when your boss needs help (even if it’s not in your job description).
Be friendly with your boss. Make the time to have small talk conversations, joke around, and maybe even go for lunch once in a while.
What if You Are Friends
But what if you can’t avoid it because your friend just became your boss.
Then it’s a good idea for the two of you to take the time to sit down and define a few rules as to how you will both deal with your friendship in the office.
One particular sensitive matter you need to be aware of, is how your teammates will view this friendship. You don’t want to be perceived as enjoying preferential treatment from the boss. Or you could end up being isolated from the rest of the team.
Not to Mention That if Your Boss is a Man
Another important angle which I have not addressed, is the male boss/female employee relationship.
Do you believe a man and a woman can truly just be friends? Without one of the two expecting something different?
I believe this is great material for another post!
So now, I would love to hear what your opinion is on this subject! Are you friends with your boss? Are you for it or against it? Any related experiences you’d like to share? Comment below!