Two years ago, the French PR agency MSL Group conducted a worldwide study among millennials to map their perspectives on changing workplace dynamics across the globe. When asked about the role their manager currently plays, most respondents chose ‘friend’ from a list of options that included coach, mentor, knowledge source, peer, allocator of work and so on. At least 30 per cent of respondents from India, too, said that they were friends with their bosses and that they do not share a hierarchical relationship with him/her.
Times have changed, and workplace relationships, too, are changing for the better. Hierarchies are being ironed out, and bosses are replacing their dictator image with that of a softer, friendlier coach and mentor. Some companies, like Zappos, have even gone as far as eliminating the ‘boss’ from the workplace equation. But those of you who still work in a hierarchical setup would agree that it is not always possible to be ‘friends’ with your boss. There is some level of awkwardness in it for you, your boss, your co-workers and all the parties involved and affected by this relationship. On one hand, a positive relationship with your senior can encourage clear communication and push you to do your work better. But experts agree that it is not wise to blur the lines between your personal and professional lives and complicate things at work.
So here are some things to keep in mind when befriending your boss:
Remember that they are your boss first
Respect the fact that your boss is your superior at work, and keep in mind that you are befriending a person who has the power to promote or fire you. So don’t let your guard down completely and discuss work-related things that you would never mention to your boss otherwise. Be cautious about what you share with them outside of the office. Do not complain about your job or your co-workers.
Keep the social media schmaltz at bay
There is an ongoing debate about whether or not to befriend your boss on social media. This choice rests entirely on you and your equation with your boss and your co-workers. But if you do add them on social networking sites, be careful about what you post. Do not get too cosy on such public sites because it adds a whole new personal dimension to the relationship. It might also make your co-workers uncomfortable or left out.
Do not indulge in office gossip
This doesn’t just apply to your boss. Indulging in office gossip even among your co-workers is not a good idea for a smooth workplace relationship. If you do meet your boss outside work, stick to conversations that are not work-related. Venting your feelings to your boss about a co-worker or the organisation can mean putting your job or your colleague’s job on the line.
Stop making a big deal about it at work
Flaunting your closeness to your boss in front of your colleagues will do both your boss and you more harm than good. You are planting seeds of resentment in the minds of your co-workers because they may perceive your friendship as one that fosters favouritism. You do not want to be the subject of office gossip, do you? This doesn’t mean that you should hide your friendship by any means. But by throwing it on their faces, you are only digging your own grave. Tomorrow, the promotion you earned through hard work is going to be dubbed as nepotism.
Understand that the boss-subordinate relationship is quite complex. Navigating a friendship with your boss needs serious consideration. But that doesn’t mean it is impossible to stay connected. It is a different feeling to be able to openly communicate with your senior and to get to know the person who occupies a post you aspire to hold in the future. The cornerstone in this relationship lies in how skilfully you draw a line between personal and professional matters.