If you’re naturally friendly and outgoing, it might seem appealing to be friends with your boss. But this can be dangerous territory for a number of reasons.
Here are just a few of the things to consider when debating whether or not employees and bosses can be friends.
1. Have respect.
Friendships are about mutual respect. The relationship between a boss and his or her subordinate is about mutual respect, too. The major exception is that one person has the ability to fire the other person.
Generally, you need to keep the relationship at a professional level and maintain a healthy distance outside the office. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get to know your boss better — you should! But you also need boundaries. You can’t talk to your boss like you’d talk to friends outside of work, because there’s an entirely different dynamic there. The authority difference may be subtle, but it exists, and it’s important not to forget that.
2. Maintain balance.
So you have a milestone birthday coming up this year, and your co-workers are throwing a party. Should the boss be invited?
This is where lines can get blurred. Just keep in mind that anything you do or say in front of your boss can affect your employment. You really shouldn’t drink too much in front of your coworkers, but it’s especially important to stay in control in front of your boss. So if you do find yourself in an off-the-clock social setting with your boss, have fun — but maintain your professionalism. Keep your behavior respectable and restrained, and be aware of the things you say and do.
3. Connect on appropriate social media channels.
Once you join a company, you’ll likely connect with your co-workers on various social media channels. But remember that not all social media channels are equal. So while you may be Snapchat buddies with someone who is in the same pay grade as you, you might want to make a more professional connection to your boss — such as LinkedIn. If you’re outspoken or post frequently about topics like religion and politics on spaces like Facebook, then you should probably avoid friending your boss there, too.
When in doubt, follow traditional wisdom.
Traditional wisdom says you should avoid friendships that cross reporting lines. This is a good general rule because it prevents conflicts of interests and awkward situations. However, today’s business environment is all about collaboration and openness, and it might be hard to separate yourself completely from your boss. It’s okay to be open and honest with him or her — but it’s always good to keep your conversations focused on work and matters related to your role. So you can be friends at the office based on your shared passion and drive to succeed, while still maintaining a separation between your professional and private lives.
By maintaining a clear line between employer and employee relationships, coworkers can avoid stress and keep the atmosphere in the office professional. Remember: it’s not that you can’t be friends with you boss, but you need to also consider the dynamics and power structures at play in your relationship.
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