Work Relationships

Pros and cons to being friends with your boss

Written by Michael Hoon

In a perfect world, since you spend such a large chunk of your life at work, you’d be friends with all of your colleagues. But when it comes to your manager, lines can be difficult to define. No matter how well you get along and how chill your office is, becoming besties with your boss isn’t always in the cards. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though—there are pros and cons to turning that professional relationship into a friendly, personal one.

Pro: Congratulations! You just made a new friend!

Well, this one’s pretty obvious. It’s the pro of making friends with, well, anyone. Making friends is great! It’s always nice to have someone new to chat with and lean on for support in times of stress. If you and a coworker click well and have a great rapport and lots in common, who cares if that someone happens to be your boss?

Con: Constructive criticism becomes complicated

One downside to having a buddy as a boss is that he or she might be less inclined to give you negative feedback when you’re not working up to your full potential. And sometimes you really need that criticism. Offering constructive criticism is often a key aspect of a boss’s job, but if she or he feels uncomfortable giving any for fear that it might damage a friendship, you’ll keep making the same mistakes over and over again and fail to grow professionally.

Pro: Knowing your boss as a friend means knowing what your boss needs

Befriending your boss is not just beneficial on a personal level. Believe it or not, it can actually make you better at your job. If you know your boss as a friend, you have a better understanding of your boss’s personality and needs. Knowing a boss inside and out makes any employee a better one.

Con: Worlds colliding can be tough

Leaving work behind when you walk out the office door is healthy. That will be a lot harder to do when you’re meeting up with your boss during your free time. Conversations may veer back toward work issues. Over cocktails, your boss might even start picking your brain about other employees who aren’t pulling their weight, and that’s when issues of betrayal can arise and things can get really sticky from 9 to 5. Also, your boss may also learn things about your personal life that could come back and bite you at work.

Pro: You’re less likely to get in trouble

Being friends with the boss isn’t just a pro in times of plenty. It can also be a real benefit when things go awry. If you mess up at work—and who doesn’t from time to time—you might be less likely to get chewed out if the chewer has plans to go to the movies with you this weekend.

Con: Here come the accusations of favoritism

Your relationship with your boss can get a bit weird if the two of you become friends, but just think of what it will do with your relationship with the other employees! First of all, they’ll probably get a little wary whenever you get a promotion or a raise, wondering if you got that benefit on merit or because the boss likes hanging out with you. Your co-workers might start making accusations of favoritism, which often leads to…

Con: You May alienate your peers

…being on the outs with your office peers. Becoming really tight with the one in charge can do a lot of damage to your relationship with your co-workers. If they think you’re getting preferential treatment, they won’t just accuse you of receiving favoritism—they won’t want anything to do with you, or in worst case scenarios, they may actively work against you.

The bottom line? Tread carefully when it comes to bonding with your boss on a personal level. There may be some superficial pros that come with it, but the cons can be pretty serious.

About the author

Michael Hoon