September 1, 2014

To Be or Not To Be: The Complexities of Being Friends With Your Boss

friends with bossIn an age where social media has removed all barriers to communication and camaraderie is the most fundamental requirement for working in a team, is it possible to maintain just a “professional” relationship with your co-workers and seniors in the office? When you begin to laugh at your boss’ jokes, accept invitations to his or her parties, go for a smoke together and befriend the person on Facebook, you know that your association is becoming more than just professional. So, where do you draw the line? Sometimes it is difficult to even understand whether such a liaison is good or bad for you professionally. Read on to enlighten yourself as the following article will highlight the advantages and disadvantages of being too close to your seniors at work.

The Advantages

1. You Get To Know What The Boss Wants and When

Employees who mix around with their seniors begin to understand their boss’ expectations based on their behavior. It increases the boss’s accessibility. If you know your boss’s work habit or meeting schedule, you can submit a report earlier than usual or can get a budget approved beforehand as you know that your work is lower on his or her priority list and is likely to go on the backburner. This may even present you as a more active and competent employee, garnering appreciation for your efforts as you function efficiently. You can easily determine your boss’ behavioral and work patterns by following him or her on social networks. Optimize this piece of knowledge to increase efficiency in the office. You may also read your manager’s social media posts to comprehend his or her state of mind and act accordingly.

2. You Receive Attention and Office Becomes More Likeable  

Doesn’t the office seem like a friendlier place when you know the big people? People begin to treat you differently and you certainly feel more important as you have all the inside scoop. Even if the boss doesn’t give you extra benefits for real, the fact that your boss interacts with you more gives you the feeling that you are cared about. The welcoming work environment and a happy state of mind promote more creativity and boost productivity. You may even begin to value your company more. Work wise, if you ever wish to work from home, your boss’s presence on social networks and smartphone apps can make it easier to send files, ask questions and receive instant replies.

3. You Begin To Understand the Company’s Decisions

When you begin to move around with your boss, you sometimes get to hear (or overhear) information that is not meant to be discussed at the executive level. Consider this a privilege because whether it is in the form of your boss venting out his anger against the senior management or him simply having an official phone conversation, you can get to know what’s going on in the company. Now whether this directly affects you or not is a separate matter, you certainly come in a position to understand the company’s decisions better as you now know that this has been thought about and are aware of the pros and cons. You wouldn’t end up feeling like a complete loser sitting at the end of the corporate cycle.

4. You Get to Create a Special Bond That Benefits You

Employees who frequently interact with their bosses, share food and crack jokes during lunches can go on to be good friends with their bosses on social websites. This gives you the opportunity to find a common ground with your superior. You can chat about sports, politics, etc., and also comment on his or her posts. This provides the chance to extend the topics of informal discussion to the office as well. Your special bond helps you seek your boss’ expertise and advice on professional growth. It allows you to talk about anything under the sun. Smart employees use this to discuss their advancement in the organization or inquire about job opportunities outside it. Some employees also exploit this bond to seek special favors, such as the extension of a deadline. Also, adding your boss to your network of friends will help you show that you have a life outside of work, so you can request for some time off to cultivate your work-life balance.

The Disadvantages

1. It Restricts Constructive Criticism

A situation where the boss is your friend can sometimes lead to awkwardness or hurt your feelings when he or she criticizes any aspect of your performance. Irrespective of whether your mistake is serious or not, you keep looking up to your boss for support. If he or she doesn’t bail you out, you may even end up accusing and resenting your superior for it. This can seriously hamper your growth as an individual as you become the victim of expectation mismatch in a professional setup. In the case of serious performance-related problems, you even run the risk of losing your job, along with the friendship.

2. You Can be Accused of Being Favored

A manager who shows genuine concern for the welfare of his or her subordinates is often proud to have a happy and productive team of workers. But a manager who displays any signs of favoritism toward select employees at the expense of neglecting the others’ needs creates a toxic work environment for everyone. In such a scenario, being the root cause of this negativity in the team can bring resentment. You may end up feeling lousier when the accusations of being favored are due to you being friends with the boss, and not for doing better work. The loathing will continue to grow in case you receive promotion or a pay hike.

3. You Can’t Suddenly Draw a Line Between Personal and Professional Life

Being in the boss’s good books can help you professionally, but there are times when it can even boomerang. You always run the risk of over-sharing your personal life in the office. This may lead to unproductive drama that can affect your peace of mind and productivity. Also when your manager is added to your Facebook friend list, social media concerns take over. If you called in sick at work to take your wife out to that fancy new restaurant in town, you have too many things to worry about. If your do this, remember:

  • Don’t check-in!
  • Don’t update your status!
  • Don’t put up a picture!
  • Don’t review the place!

Over-thinking on these lines can take away half the fun of social sharing. You’re always concerned about your boss screening your profile and creating perceptions. Your freedom and privacy go for a toss. If you’re the type of employee whose out-of-office personality differs from the workplace, then having your boss as a friend on social networks might not be the best idea. Different surveys by companies like SodaHead and have time and again showed that employees don’t want to be friends with their bosses on Facebook.

A survey showing response of 4,100 professionals across different career websites.

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4. Be Ready To Be Tested

Bosses who appoint their friends and relatives can always ask them to work till late or sacrifice their weekends. Despite being close to you, your boss wouldn’t want the blame for giving too much leeway and not bringing out the best in you. He or she may even feel responsible for you at times and that he or she must prove the worth of his or her own actions to the company. For bosses, bringing family members and close friends on board can make it difficult for them to show their liberal side at work. You could be the first one to be affected by cuts in payroll during difficult times like recession or layoffs. So just be careful; your closeness to your boss could bring you on top of the company’s hit list.

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Devika Arora is a professional writer currently focusing on the extensive domain of job search and career building. She holds a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication and has written various articles for the benefit of recruiters as well as job seekers.