11th November 2015

Befriending Your Boss: Can you ever be friends with your boss?

Would you share your recent tinder tales with your boss?  Does your boss know the dark details of last weekend’s booze-fuelled bad behaviour?  Can you tell your boss when he’s smelling of last night’s curry?  Do you treat your boss’ belongings as if they’re your own?  If so, be careful!  Your boss may actually also be your friend.

Most employees will tell you that it is not possible to be friends with your boss. I would disagree.  Provided that you follow these simple rules, you can still be friends with your boss:

1.Never force a friendship: Nobody likes a suck-up.  If you don’t share the same viewpoints or interests as your boss, there is little point in pretending solely for the purposes of workplace friendship.  Never second-guess his favourites to leave Strictly Come Dancing.  It is only going to repel your boss if he thinks you are trying to copy his personal opinions or un-nerve him if he thinks you are constantly trying to read his mind.

2. Always demonstrate diplomacy: If you are friends with your boss, you may have access to various secrets, including the identity of his least favourite colleagues.  Never gossip or tell colleagues about these circle-of-trust issues.  It is a no-brainer that your boss will be angry if you commit a data breach to colleagues in the canteen.  However even colleagues may throw accusations of favouritism at you: the promotion which you worked so hard to achieve will be viewed as a sham.

3.Attempt to favour any feedback: Respond professionally to any feedback or criticism from your boss.  Remember that your boss’ job in the workplace is to ensure that you and the team perform at optimum levels.  Taking criticism from your friends is always tough.  It’s even tougher when you are forced to listen to it during your working day.  However remember that it can frequently be difficult for a boss to give constructive criticism to a friend and it makes it even worse if the feedback is taken badly or personally.  If you can’t take this form of feedback, then you can never be friends with your boss.

4.Do your job well: Never rely on your friendship to get out of doing duties.  Always question whether, when speaking to your boss, you would respond in the same way to a request from another manager.  If you would not say the same thing to another manager, don’t say it to your friend.

5.Create a positive respectful relationship: Always keep it professional at work.  This professionalism will win your colleagues’ respect and prevent accusations of favouritism.  Out of work, you can do what you please.  If that means Whatsapp’ing him some friendly banter about his recent milestone age or ribbing him about the fact that he looks older than Bradley Cooper (I am younger), that is fine.  Just keep that private banter away from the office.

I have found that colleagues work better together when they are friends.  Working together becomes more about doing a great job with your buddies and less about fee targets and promotions.  The more mundane parts of your job become much more enjoyable and certainly boring travel can become more bearable if you can connect and communicate with your peers.  It will always save time if you know your boss’ coffee order and just makes for a happier, slicker workplace.

So if you do fear that you have become friends with your boss, do not worry.  There is no need yet to break up with your boss.  Provided that you follow these workplace rules, you should be able to maintain a friendship as well as a happy boss.

And remember, sometimes your boss may even enjoy hearing some of your tinder tales of terror.

Simon Allison
Partner – Head of Employment Law



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