Can You Socialize with the Boss?

Happy girlfriends women group drinking beer at brewery bar restaurant – Friendship concept with young female friends enjoying time and having genuine fun at cool vintage pub – Focus on beer glasses

Dear DW,

If my supervisor was not my boss, I think we could be friends.
Is there a problem with cultivating that friendship?

, Hardworking but Friendly

Dear Hardworking
but Friendly,
The question of becoming “friends” with the boss is not always black-and-white, says Ariel Schur, founder and CEO of New York–based ABS Staffing Solutions. There are many variables and dynamics to take into account, as well as the importance of maintaining appropriate boundaries.

As a general rule of thumb, Schur says, the safest bet is to keep work relationships—especially a relationship with the boss—professional.

That’s not to say you might not sometimes share details of a personal nature. “I have texted or emailed nonwork-related items with a boss. I think when you work closely with people, that is somewhat inevitable,” Schur says. Sometimes it can be beneficial to disclose personal information. “I was recently a boss in a small workplace setting. I was getting divorced, and I have three children with special needs,” she says. “Since these things forced me to be outside the workplace and noticeably not myself, I preferred to be candid.
I feel it enabled my team to be closer.”

Other factors, such as the gender orientation of your boss, may muddy the waters, particularly in this #MeToo era. In that context, “one needs to always recognize the power dynamics that exist and the importance of being professional at all times,” Schur says.

If you change companies or if you change your role at your current company and your boss becomes your peer, there is no longer an unequal balance of power, and any friendship you form is unlikely to affect workplace dynamics.

—Tamara E. Holmes

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