Can You Be Friends With Your Boss?

January 23, 2019  |  

Serious businesswoman working at desk in office

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Personal and work boundaries can become blurred very quickly when you spend 5 days a week and 8 hours a day with a group of people. On one hand, you want to be close to your boss and colleagues because otherwise spending hours together can become painful. On the other hand, getting too close to your boss and letting them into the deep details of your life could put you at risk of losing promotions or opportunities if your employer secretly feels your after work activities impose on your work.

“It’s hard to prescribe boundaries that fit everyone – there’s a lot to learn about context that’s important,” said Jeffery Doolittle, associate dean of the Institute of Global Leadership and Entrepreneurship at Olivet Nazarene University told Business Daily. 

“We think age, gender, history of the relationship and nature of the work are all factors to consider when drawing a line for what’s appropriate.”

Some employer/employee relationships are completely off limits, like dating.

“Romantic relationships are the most obvious no-no to avoid with anyone who manages you or who has the ability to affect the terms and conditions of your employment, such as pay raises, promotions and access to advancement opportunities,” said Amanda Augustine, career advice expert at TopResume told Business Daily.

It’s also important to be cautious about how you interact with your boss or employees on social media.

“While there are plenty of exceptions given context and personality, as an example, … following and engaging younger employees on social media can be inappropriate, as well as calling/texting about things unrelated to work,” Doolittle said. “It’s fine to be friendly, but not at the expense of being professional.”

The best rule to follow for learning how to navigate these interactions is to ask questions.

“If you’re unsure what is considered acceptable and what will result in a ‘discussion’ with HR, consider the company culture that’s been established, the size of the organization and the relationships between the executive leaders,” Augustine said. “Also, take a look at the employee handbook and see if there are any policies in place that define what is considered inappropriate behavior.”

You can also check in with other employees who have been at the company longer to gauge the company culture and if friendliness is a standard.

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