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Are my boss and I too close?


Business and Professional Relationships Networking and maintaining a positive environment in the work place is important! Surviving the 9-to-5 within.

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Old 25th May 2014, 3:46 PM   #1
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Question Are my boss and I too close?

I don’t know if this is anything to be concerned about in the workplace, but I wonder if my boss and I are too close as friends.

What really got me asking this was the most recent instance of someone asking me what it’s like to work for my boss. It’s a question I get asked a lot with variations here and there like “he’s so chill, you’re so lucky he’s your boss” or “you two are always together” or “you (me) seem to manage him as much as he manages you”. I guess this speaks to the many points of curiosity people have about our working relationship.

Aside from being a managerial figure in my life, I would consider him to be my best friend in the office (note: I’m female). We really grew tight in terms of our professional relationship—maybe this has something to do with the fact that I am his first direct report in his new role at the company and he is my first boss out of college. In our time together, we’ve had our share of pulling through in tandem on some tough client and internal situations. We have also grown close on a personal level with each of us having told each other secrets of our pasts—heck, we’ve also had a drunken cab ride confessional or two after work functions out of town.

I personally have never seen our relationship as anything beyond professional friendship, but I see that our colleagues look at us differently. Whenever a colleague talks to me one-on-one, there’s always a questions or two about how I feel about working with my boss. In fact, I’ve been told in passing by a colleague that compared to the other supervisor/direct-report relationships, there’s none as close as ours. Side note: I once joked with my boss that I was interviewing for other jobs, and he got so upset (read: did not see the humor at all in the scenario I tried to make light of).

I’d like to hear your thoughts. Is there anything potentially damaging about such a close relationship in the office, especially to someone who is your boss? I’ve had my recent reservations about our closeness so I tried to keep things more conventionally professional last week—it just resulted in him asking me if something was wrong.

Your feedback is much appreciated! Thank you! Sorry for the novel of a post!!
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Old 25th May 2014, 4:02 PM   #2
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I'd say yes, based off of a few things:

1. Non-existent boundaries in regard to him until recently.

Drunken cab confessionals with someone who has the power to end your employment?? What ARE you thinking?

2. You're a fresh-outta-college female, while he's male (older?) and your boss

It sucks, but people are probably wondering if you two have a thing because of those facts alone, you're lucky HR hasn't made an issue of it. You can get fired simply if something is SUSPECTED, not even confirmed.

3. This connection is being not only reciprocated but encouraged by your boss.

WHY? (a very important question in all of this that has many, many potentially ugly answers) What if he's considering having a full-fledged affair with you? What if you're accidentally having an emotional affair with him right now?? There's an alarming amount of possible motivators on his end of things you seem to have only JUST BEGUN to consider.

4. HE.IS.YOUR.BOSS.

As they say, don't piss where you eat.

For the record I'm a 25 year old young female professional who's first boss out of college was a nightmare, so I'm talking partly from experience & partly from observation.
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Old 25th May 2014, 4:32 PM   #3
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I’m a professional in my 50’s who’s worked in mid-sized and small organizations. I do see danger here. To add to StrongLass’ s points, which are all good, I’d add that it’s not good that people are questioning and commenting on the relationship. It’s affecting the way others view each of you and could impact you both professionally. Think long term- 5, 10 years down the road.
At a personal level, I just had a mucky boss-employee issue and it wasn’t good for business or anyone involved at all. I identify with this. Best to tidy it up asap.
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Old 25th May 2014, 9:06 PM   #4
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I appreciate your quick responses!

@StrongLass, you make some great points. I definitely let a lot of things slide that are fundamental "do nots" from a professional standpoint. To your first point, I think every rulebook says something along the lines of "don't get drunk with your boss". My boss is older (by 4 years), but that's no excuse to get too comfortable with him. I'll need to keep my guard way up moving forward.

@BlueIris, I see what you mean. For example, I've heard that I'm next in line for promotion, and the last thing I want is for my colleagues to think it's because of some favoritism demonstrated by my boss--there are so many eyes on us.

I certainly need to be more careful. I'm a professional now, and bosses aren't college pals. I think I may have gotten too carried away with the casual atmosphere of the start-up I work at. I've also read a thread in the forums about someone who got fired when a superior grew attracted to her, and I don't want to find myself in the same boat.

When I get back to the office on Tuesday, I'll have my work cut out for me as far as getting started in cleaning up the mess I'm in.
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Old 25th May 2014, 9:20 PM   #5
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Just that you're asking -seems you already knew the answer.

As a gal that's worked many jobs over the years - I've never had others ask me how it is to work for my boss(es). They may be fishing - to check and see if there's anything going on between you two.


If you want to keep your job - it's best to know where the professional boundary is. Drunken cab rides and "confessions" are for social friends - not your boss. Unless you're trying to date him - in which case you're best to switch jobs.

I hope he's not married...?
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Old 26th May 2014, 8:07 AM   #6
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@2sunny, thanks for the response! The fishing hypothesis about my coworkers makes sense. They may think they see something, and just want to hear it straight from the horse's mouth.

My boss is not married and not dating. But as you said, if ever I determine that I want to date him (and he reciprocates), I'll have to shop around for a new job first.
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Old 26th May 2014, 9:25 AM   #7
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I think if people are freely asking you about you and your boss you can believe there is already office gossip going around about you two.
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Old 29th May 2014, 10:09 AM   #8
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The gossiping thing is bad. But then again it may be your guilt that makes the inquiries seem odd. It does sound like something could happen between you if this continues on its current track.
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Old 14th December 2014, 3:32 PM   #9
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Just thought I'd throw in an epilogue for this post.

I am going to quit my job next month for a new opportunity. Initially, I planned on telling my boss (putting in the 2 weeks) closer to when my start date would be. However, I somehow thought it wouldn't do any harm to confide in my best girlfriend at the office about the announcement a couple of weeks ago. Whether one can actually sustain real friendships in the office is a question for another post, but telling that friend totally backfired on me as everyone in the office soon found out (as verified my the countless IM's I soon received).

Not long after that, I went out with some friends one night and was approached by a woman I only recognized from pictures -- my boss's girlfriend. I knew they had previously dated before me and my boss started working together, and the two just got back together this past summer. She candidly admitted to me that we (me and herself) were probably the two most important women in my boss's life, and that I have continually challenged him and changed him for the better in the time that we'd been working together. I'm also, apparently, a frequent conversation topic of theirs at home. After a round of shots, she left. I don't know what the convo meant or what she was trying to achieve. This encounter came as a bit of a shocker in addition to being totally random and out-of-the-blue.

Either way, I'm leaving my job. I also respect their relationship. I have kept to myself as far as the couple is concerned ever since they rekindled their romance, and I won't be trying to shove myself in the picture after I leave. Happy ending I think, with some lingering questions that will remain unanswered.
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Old 14th December 2014, 4:41 PM   #10
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The main downside is an issue that he should have the most concern for, and that is that people will assume you are getting favors from him (and you probably are) and have less respect for you because of it, whether there's anything crossing lines or not. As boss, it's his duty to be aware of office morale, and I can tell you as someone who has been on the worst possible end of a situation like this, it will not make you any friends. My boss held onto a little sucker-up who flattered him all the time in the face of many people making complaints about her, and in the process those complaining lost work status and other things they were entitled to. I think you should have a frank talk with him and just tell him that people are always asking questions and tell him you value him as a boss and a friend but want him to work with you in setting some boundaries or ground rules to turn around the impression you are both giving to other employees. He will ask but do not tell him who's asking. It will only make things worse.
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