Workplace Culture

Can You Be Friends with Your Boss?

Getting along with the people in our workplace is essential to being a happy and productive employee. For many of us, coworkers can even become lifelong friends. But what about our boss – should we try to be friends with them? Or what if your friendship precedes their role as your boss? There is no doubt that a close relationship with a superior in the workplace can be complicated and confusing – but it doesn’t have to be. It can also be rewarding if it is managed and approached in the right way.

Here are five things to keep in mind if your boss is your friend—or you want your boss to be your friend.

  1. Don’t Force a Friendship

Never approach a relationship with your boss or supervisor with the goal of becoming friends. Often people try to befriend their superiors to help themselves climb the corporate ladder or to get special perks in the workplace. Even if your motives are pure, and you just think your boss would be a really great friend, you will likely come across as inauthentic and as though you are looking for an advantage.

  1. Set Boundaries

Sometimes a close co-worker can be promoted to your boss, or you can be hired at a company where your friend is already your boss. In such scenarios – where you were friends first and boss/employee second – it is important to have a conversation about how your relationship will look going forward.

Maybe you decide to not talk about work (or at least work gossip) outside of the workplace, or you establish that personal conversations will happen only at lunch break, or maybe only outside of work altogether. Setting boundaries ensures that you can keep your personal friendship without interfering with each other’s roles in the workplace.

  1. Keep Your Relationship as a Friend and as an Employee Separate

At work, your friend is your boss first and foremost, and you are their employee. This means that you respect their authority and listen to their instructions and feedback. Outside of work, your relationship is equalized as friends. As in any healthy friendship, a good level of respect should be a part of your relationship at work and outside of work.

  1. Be Conscious of How Your Coworkers View Your Friendship

You may have a great relationship with your boss, but you also should maintain good relationships with your coworkers. And if your coworkers see you waltzing into the boss’s office to chat at any time or having personal conversations at work, they may think you are using your friendship to get special treatment or undeserved rewards. Following the first 3 tips outlined should help, but always keep in mind how you and your boss’s interactions at work will be perceived by your coworkers.

  1. Be Grateful!

You work in a place where your boss is your friend – that’s pretty amazing! Remember that, when you feel like complaining about work to your boss or when your friendship seems complicated and frustrating.

Being friends with your boss can certainly add challenges to the everyday workplace experience. But if we proceed with a few boundaries and guides in place, it can turn a potentially complicated situation into a positive and enriching one.


Wendy Loewen

Managing Director

Wendy is co-author of ACHIEVE’s book, The Culture Question: How to Create a Workplace Where People Like to Work. This book is available on our website.

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