Friendship is a powerful bond that can provide an immense amount of benefits to anyone. The same can be said about a work relationship with a high quality boss. These two types of relationships, when done right, contain elements of trust, support and encouragement. Relational attributes like these will provide a level of balance and improved quality of life. Having good people around results in positive influence. Seeing as these two types of relationships involve many similar components it begs the question of if they can be blended. Can an employee be friends with their boss? Is this appropriate within the social guidelines of the workplace? Seeing as success is a common goal within business, working together in solidarity seems apropos. Author and speaker Brian Tracy summed this up, “Teamwork is so important that it is virtually impossible for you to reach the heights of your capabilities or make the money that you want without becoming very good at it.”
If coming together as people is so critical and friendship can be a product of true teamwork, should a boss also be your friend? We connected with 10 different business executives to discover their opinions on this.
Understand your boss
Tri Nguyen is the co-founder and CEO of Network Capital, a specialist in the home loan process. He believes that a boss employee friendship can be subjectively appropriate depending on the personality of the boss.
“Some people are strictly business one-hundred percent of the time. Others are personable and friendly regardless of the circumstances. Both approaches are totally acceptable within the world of business as the work world is a collaborative space for all types of people. The key in navigating a potential friendship with your boss is understanding who they are as people. If they’re friendly and personable by nature, they’ll likely meet you on this level which is perfectly acceptable.”
What is the definition?
Awesome OS is a brand focused on servicing ecommerce companies through personal customer experiences. Their CEO, Erich Gist, raised the question of what exactly does this type of friendship look like in a real world setting.
“In the workplace, I always encourage friendly conversation and relationships. People should not be robots who show up, do their work, and go home. An environment like that does not lend itself to team unity. However, there is a blurry line here. Is it acceptable to get lunch with your boss one on one outside the workplace? Likely yes. But is it appropriate to go out for a night of drinking like you might with your college buddies? Probably not. Friendship is great but it takes a level of care when involving the workplace.”
Remember the power differences
Most friendships are built on similarities in personality types, life situations, and common interests. People value their friends as equals. But when it comes to being friends with a boss, there is a distinct difference between the two parties – the level of authority. Nowadays is geared towards promoting their clients’ social media accounts. Their co-founder and CEO, Kaspar Povilanskas, has taken this approach.
“When speaking with your friends, there’s a level of relaxation and total comfort because of the comparability of the individuals. That comparability does not exist between a boss and employee because one is in charge of the other, they’re not companions in their roles. Because of this, maintaining a true friendship may prove incredibly difficult and possibly unsustainable.”
Would you say it online?
Jacques-Edouard Sabatier is the co-founder and CEO of JOW, a personalized and automated grocery shopping experience. He considers a friendly relationship with a boss to be appropriate though a full on friendship may not be due to discretion.
“Being closed off at work can quickly alienate you from your peers and managers. Don’t be afraid to offer up some personal details about yourself or life. That being said, this can be taken too far especially when with your boss. Getting to know them is worthwhile for day to day work and networking purposes but a friendship may be too personal. Some things that are shared with friends, such as activities or struggles, aren’t posted online and you should use the same discrepancy with a boss.”
It may be natural
TextSanity is a technology company offering the ability to market your company via mass text messaging. Their CMO, Carrie Derocher, believes that two people can mesh so well that a friendship is certain.
Many people are natural socialites. They exude honesty, personality, connectability, and trust. Your boss may be this type of person. If you’re also the type of person who makes friends with everyone, a personal relationship with your boss may simply develop organically and that’s just how it goes sometimes. I don’t believe that this is inappropriate and the workplace should be accepting of people for who they are. But if you find yourself in a situation like this one be sure to keep in mind the atmosphere where this relationship is taking place.
Consider the chemistry
Personality types and differences come into play in any kind of work setting. Due to these things, certain relationships will be sustainable and others will not be. This extends to friendships. Gryphon Digital Mining is a carbon neutral bitcoin mining brand. Their director and CEO, Rob Chang, advises prudence.
“Your boss can be your friend, but it depends on the people involved as to how well that works. Some people should not work together because it can threaten their friendships. However, there are other people who are very good at separating their friendships and business. Those people are the ones in which such a relationship would thrive.”
Be aware of the repercussions
Mike Pasley is the founder of Famous IRL, a retailer for creative clothing apparel. He suggests that workplace friendship can bring personal downsides and it is necessary to be mindful of these things.
“Striving to be friends with your boss can tick off the people you’re working with because they may think you’re seeking preferential treatment. Irritating coworkers or causing internal strife is not something to be caught in the middle of. If the sole reason you desire friendship is for an advantage it’s best to rethink your approach. It’s also wise to consider the potential repercussions your boss may face from employees or upper management if they witness an overly friendly interaction. You don’t want to play a role in bringing trouble to another person.”
Understand them, don’t become buddies
Vaster is a company offering creative options for those looking to purchase, refinance or recapture equity with a home. Their vice president of bridge lending, George Fraguio, considers it astute to get to know a boss but not to bring them into an inner circle.
“Personal questions about a boss’ life and occurrences should be encouraged within the workplace. A place that lacks personality and identity quickly becomes a very dreary experience. Understanding who a person is and what makes them tick is wonderful for injecting relatability to a workplace. However, a boss can’t become a buddy who comes over for the football game or barbeque as that begins to cross a professional line.”
An increase in productivity
If a person enjoys or values something, they’re more likely to go above and beyond because of this. Friendship is an example of this and when this is the case with a boss can yield positive work results. Ben Thompson is the CEO of Hardwood Bargains, a company offering hardwood floors at a manufacturer price. He considers this approach mostly practical.
“Friendship can offer qualities such as trust, support, increased communication and satisfaction. In a workplace, these are greatly desired. If an employee does become friends with their boss the result of these qualities may impact an employee’s productivity positively. As both people are looking for success in their field, this end result is wonderful. Just be wary of resentment or blame when things don’t go right because that can sour a friendship and working relationship.”
How/when did the friendship originate?
Boye Fajinmi is the co-founder and president of TheFutureParty, an all-in-one newsletter highlighting topics of business, entertainment and culture. He believes that a boss-employee friendship may be appropriate depending on the circumstances of its inception.
“It’s extremely common for businesses to promote from within and that can directly affect workplace relationships. Let’s say you and another employee were hired for similar roles within the same department. It’s likely that you went through orientation together and your daily work lives intersect constantly. This amount of contact can cause friendship to become effortless. But then, your friend gets promoted and becomes your direct supervisor. Your personal connection and experiences don’t suddenly go out the window because of a role change and now you’re friends with your boss. I see no issue whatsoever with scenarios similar to this one.”
Being friends with a boss is a delicate tight rope to be walked. In a healthy manner, it can be a fantastic addition to any job. However, there are stark downsides which should be considered. This type of relationship requires responsibility from both sides so that it does not become harmful. Business author Frank Sonnenberg put it best, “Trust is like blood pressure. It’s silent, vital to good health, and if abused it can be deadly.”