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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

The Normal Person's Guide to Being Friends With Your Boss (Without Making Things Weird)


You spend a good majority of your time in the office. So, it’s really only natural that you’ll establish friendships with the people you work with. And, having a great relationship with your co-workers can actually make working day after day that much more enjoyable!

But, when you develop a close bond with your boss? Well, that dynamic can get a little trickier.

On one hand, a relationship with your superior can lead to increased communication and a boost in your morale. However, the blurred lines between your personal and professional lives can also complicate things within your office.

So, here are seven dos and don’ts of being tight with your work supervisor.

Hint: you don’t ever want to make jokes about his or her terrible management skills. But, you already knew that much—I hope.

Do Always Remember Your Boss’ Authority

Sure, maybe you and your boss grab drinks together on a Friday night or buy each other gifts for birthdays. But, that doesn’t mean you should ever forget that your boss is indeed your superior in the workplace.

So, even though you think of your manager as your friend, you do want to exercise a certain level of control and censorship when it comes to your interactions outside of the office. The general rule of thumb is that he or she is your boss first, and your pal second.

Don’t complain endlessly about the duties of your position. Don’t make jokes about which of your co-workers should be fired. And, please, don’t get blackout drunk—or even obviously drunk. Yes, you’re friends. But, you should still make an effort to uphold your professional reputation. After all, your “friend” can fire you.

Don’t Flaunt Your Friendship in the Office

Have you ever hung out with two close pals who spent the entire time reminiscing about stories you weren’t a part of, talking about people you didn’t know, and telling inside jokes they knew you wouldn’t understand? It was annoying, wasn’t it?

Now, imagine how your co-workers will feel toward you and your boss if you’re like this every day in the office. There’s bound to be some tension and animosity.

Needless to say, it’s important that you don’t flaunt your friendship in the office. It can be pretty off-putting to all of your other colleagues, and even spark some pretty nasty office gossip!

While you should never hide your relationship, you absolutely don’t want to rub your bond in everyone’s face—especially if your manager doesn’t have the same relationship with other team members. If you do, you may be left with a great relationship with your manager, but you can kiss your friendships with co-workers goodbye.

Do Be Inclusive

Just because you have a great relationship with your boss doesn’t mean you want to form this exclusive office clique that no other co-worker can penetrate. To avoid any conflict or hurt feelings, make an effort to include others in the office.

If you’re heading out for happy hour after work, extend the invitation to everyone else you work with. Doing this will not only reinforce the fact that the relationship is fair and legitimate, but will also cut down on the snide remarks and judgment from your co-workers.

Don’t Get Too Cozy on Social Media

Work relationships must've been so easy before social media was a big deal. But, now we're all tasked with the overwhelming decision of whether or not we should accept that dreaded friend request from our boss.

Hitting “accept” really comes down to personal preference. However, regardless of what you decide, it's best not to become too familiar or cozy with your superior on your social media accounts. Why? Well, it introduces a whole new personal element (and possibly even a need for censorship!) into your already complicated relationship.

Plus, those frequent tweets back and forth between you and your manager can cause your other co-workers to feel uncomfortable or even left out.

Do Avoid Office Gossip

Office gossip is a bad idea in any circumstance. But, when it’s taking place between a manager and subordinate? Well, that’s just a recipe for disaster.

As a best practice, you and your supervisor should stay away from discussions about anything work-related when you’re outside of the office. It only serves to expand your gray area and further complicate your already delicate relationship.

Plus, you need to keep in mind that this person is still your boss (remember my point about constantly recognizing authority?). After all, your seemingly harmless venting could very well be job jeopardizing for the co-worker you’re complaining about.

Don’t Leverage Your Friendship for Special Treatment

This should go without saying, but you should absolutely never use your personal relationship for pull in a professional scenario. In the office, your boss should treat you as he or she does any other employee—and you should expect that from him or her.

Wouldn’t you be furious if you always had to set an appointment with your supervisor, while another employee could simply breeze into his or her office whenever he or she pleased? It’s a surefire way to make someone feel inferior and disrespected, whether that’s your intention or not.

Do Openly Communicate

Balancing your personal and professional relationship is bound to get complicated, so you and your superior should make an effort to always openly communicate with one another about any problems, concerns, or conflicts.

Also, it’s not a bad idea for you and your boss to sit down and talk about some ground rules pretty early on in your friendship—as awkward and formal as it might seem. This sets boundaries that you can respect both in and out of the office, as well as makes both of your expectations clear right from the get-go.

There’s no doubt about it—navigating a friendship with your boss involves some serious thought and consideration. However, it’s definitely doable, and even surprisingly common! Practice these “dos” and avoid the “don’ts” for a friendship that’s ethical, honest, and (hopefully!) judgment-free.