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Being Friends With Your Boss: The Do’s and Don’ts

Relationships are complicated, particularly the relationship between a boss and a subordinate. The entanglement of personal and professional lives can be messy, but it can also be beneficial for both boss and his or her employee.

Establishing a personal relationship with your boss can create a foundation of trust and comradery, which can lead to work perks, like preference for high priority projects or a yes to a flexible work schedule. However, without a good sense of self-awareness and clean boundaries established in the office place, a friendly relationship with your boss can go sour, and consequently effect the office or team culture in your place of work.

How do you navigate the personal and professional interactions you have with your boss, and how do you develop and maintain that “sweet spot” that not only works in your professional favor, but also allows both you and your boss to work better together with less stress and more enjoyment?

Below is a short, to-the-point list of the major do’s and don’ts when be-friending your boss to keep the relationship healthy and ultimately beneficial for both parties involved. For any sane person, the do’s and don’ts when becoming pals with your superior serve as a framework for basic normalcy and to hinder any foreseen resentment from those outside of the one-to-one bond.

Do Set Boundaries

Setting intentions with the interactions you might have with your boss in and out of the office is important to keep communication direct and avoid uncomfortable scenarios or inappropriate experiences that could ultimately damage the professional side of the relationship. For example, if you’re traveling out of the country with your boss, maybe speak to grabbing drinks by leading with, “As friends, we should definitely check out this restaurant and grab bottomless Bloody Mary’s (and I hope you know enough not to get black out drunk or even visibly boozy in front of your superior). When speaking to office-related stuff outside the office, lead with, “As your employee…”

Setting boundaries not only shows that you care enough about the friendship to openly talk about the blurred lines, but it also shows initiative, which speaks to one of your truly impressed professional characteristics! If you ask to keep personal relationship drama out of the personal part of the friendship in a way that is respectful and straight-forward, it can set really clear intentions about the keeping the relationships drama-free and clear any potential mixed-signals from entering communication

Don’t Flaunt It

Initially, when inside jokes echo through office cubicles, it can be funny. At first. However, as inside jokes from an outside perspective continue to be heard, it can get pretty old fast, and pretty annoying. Keep it cool around the office. Jealousy can easily cause riffs in team dynamics and create unwanted colleague cliques that render office drama, and no one wants to be involved in office drama of any sort.

Keep your bond with your superior to yourself, and try to respect other relationships your teammates have with the boss, too. Keep the relationship open and invite others in! If you’re grabbing drinks after work, extend the invitation to the cube mates. There are ways to curtail out-of-office gossip and happy hour blabber and have real, insightful conversations that boost morale and strengthen team bonds.

Do Be Genuine

At the end of the work day, your superior is your superior, and you are the inferior player. Bosses manage their teams, oversee workflows, and organize and structure departments. The power can always be used against you or in your favor, depending on how the boss functions and makes choices as your manager and as your superior.

boss employee relationship

If you’re simply trying too hard to get that buddy-buddy vibe with your boss, and it simply isn’t flying, don’t force it. Let it go.  No one likes ingenuity, particular someone who seems to be going after it for personal reasons, like an instant raise or favoritism. If you and your boss are two different types of people with little interest in one another, keep it that way! It is better to let the relationship be professional than force the personal relationship that simply isn’t there. The more selfish a relationship is, the higher the chances are that it will end in flames.

Just Don’t Share Social Media

Social media has become both a value and an issue in the professional world. There are so many ways we simply don’t engage responsibly and consistently across all social media platforms and don’t lead their social media posts and texts with a consistent intention. This leaves room for misinterpretation and misperception, which can place an employee in question-even with their boss-friend!

avoid boss on social media

As a general rule of thumb, unless you’re literally roommates with your boss, maintain boundaries on all forms of social media that are not used with a professional intent is probably best. Accepting friend requests on Facebook or following your manager on Twitter can leave open lines of communication that can grow from playful to risky. Watch out for social media traps, and use your best intuition when navigating interactions with your boss on social media.

Do Send Good Vibes

Keep relationships with your superior in the office light and positive. Being friendly and light-hearted can go much farther than you think! A friendly wave or a casual chat in the social hub, your bad thoughts or misfortune aside, can surely frame a platform for a personal-professional relationship. Your boss is always your boss in the office place first. The personal part can be as a light as harmless banter or sharing cute photos of animals.

Don’t Seek Favoritism

Don’t set expectations high or get too cocky. You’re friendly relationship with your boss is indeed exciting and makes work more tolerable. However, you should not expect to be the “chosen one” for every special project or big client lead. There is room for healthy competition among your colleagues, and room for you to notice your ego and work on dialing it back. Your boss might indeed prioritize you, because hey, we tend to pick the things we like in life over others, but there are times this won’t happen, and you need to be prepared for that.

Learn to tap into the office culture at work, and forego any sort of expectations of favoritism with your superior because you both get along.

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