How to be friends with your boss without risking your job.

Harvey Specter and Mike Ross. Leslie Knope and Ann Perkins. Batman and Robin. It can be truly magical when a friendship forms between a boss and their employee—or sidekick. Not only do these dynamic duos have a great time working together, but their collaboration also allows them to achieve amazing feats. That’s fiction, though. Things get a bit complicated when these tv relationships are translated into real life. (After all, do you really want to see your boss in spandex?)

Maintaining professional friendships

As with any relationship, there are ways to build a healthy friendship and ways to ruin one. The stakes are quite high if you fall out with your boss, unfortunately, so here are some strategies you can use to keep everything cordial.

  • Know your place. No matter how close you get to your manager, they still hold authority over you. Never, ever, lose sight of the fact that your fate at the organization is in their hands and can be affected by anything you do or say.
  • Don’t say anything you wouldn’t tell a ten-year-old. If whatever you want to tell your boss is too inappropriate for a child’s ears, your boss shouldn’t hear it either. Furthermore, don’t consider it a green light if your boss or co-workers initiate these kinds of conversations. They might not realize the damage they’re making to their reputations, so just steer clear.
  • Abstain from gossip. Also on the list of things not to discuss are office politics and gossip. Even if you completely agree with what your boss is saying, contributing to these toxic conversations is neither productive nor helpful to you, and if you’re unlucky you could even get jumbled up into the scandal yourself.
  • Treat everyone the same. Make no mistake, people will notice if the only person you socialize with is your boss. Your peers might actually start to resent you for this, especially if they think you’re benefiting from favoritism. To avoid potentially alienating everyone, treat them with the same level of respect and interest as you do your boss. Simple ways you can do this is to ask them how their day is going or to invite them to grab a coffee. However…
  • Keep it genuine. Don’t start chatting up your co-workers just because you don’t want them to hate you. Moreover, don’t befriend your boss just to get perks. Disingenuous behavior like this can be smelled from a mile away. Put aside any personal differences you may have and treat everyone with the same kindness and respect you would want in return.

Tricky grey areas

The above tips are useful, but what if your boss is your spouse or parent? Or what if a close friend got hired and is now your manager? These are complex relationships that require a lot of diligence and open communication. The more honest you are with each other and your co-workers, the healthier your workplace dynamic will be. To learn more about acceptable workplace behavior, click here.


Also published on Medium.