Magazine article Work & Family Life

If Your Boss Is Also Your Buddy, Read On

Magazine article Work & Family Life

If Your Boss Is Also Your Buddy, Read On

Article excerpt

It's natural for people who work together to become friends socially, and some of us have met our best friends at work. But a personal relationship with a boss can backfire sometimes.

"When I started working for a small family-owned company, the line between my work life and home life got blurred," says Lila. "My boss asked me to feed his cats while he and his wife were on vacation, and I didn't feel like I could say no."

With no guiding rules

Some companies encourage informality between workers and bosses. Larger employers, particularly where the work environment is competitive, tend to be less familial. Employees are more likely to develop close friendships with their peers than with their bosses.

Experts have noticed gender differences as well. Women prefer to establish a rapport with the people who report to them rather than taking a strict "I'm your boss" approach. But there is still a line between rapport and intimacy, between a workplace friendship and a close personal relationship.

When business is pleasure

The old saying "Don't mix business with pleasure" does not apply to the work world as we know it. Very often, business is pleasure, and mixing the two can make work more productive and enjoyable.

Even so, buddy relationships with bosses can go sour.

"I had the greatest boss in the world," says Ron. "We would work late and go out to eat together. Our families got together socially. Then Ed got a big promotion, on the strength of our mutual efforts, I believe, and I was left behind to deal with a new boss who didn't trust me because I had been so friendly with his predecessor."

Avoiding the pitfalls

A true friendship implies a bond between equals. So while your boss may be your pal, he or she is still your boss and, thus, has power over you, at least at the workplace.

Here's how to avoid some of the pitfalls of a personal relationship with your boss:

* Be realistic about your relationship. No matter how friendly you and your supervisor are socially, don't forget that he or she is still your boss. Don't ask for favors for yourself and don't expect your boss to look the other way if you are lax about your work. Avoid saying or doing anything that will put your boss into the position of having to choose between organizational performance and his or her friendship with you. …

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