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Can Your Boss be Your BFF?

September 29, 2015

By: Diana Schneidman

The short answer is “no.” It is not wise to consider your boss as your best friend. The same goes in reverse: A boss should not regard a reporting employee as a best friend.

Friendly, yes. Best friend, no.  Why?  Friendships are based on equality and boss is always your superior.  Can it ever be wise to befriend a boss when that person has the power to fire you, refuse your raise, or generally make your work life miserable? Again…no.

Here are 7 reasons that creating such a close relationship shows poor judgment.


1) It’s not fair to your coworkers.

Every time you get recognition, praise, cake on your birthday, or most of all, a promotion, your coworkers attribute it to your friendship. They are ticked off . . . and with good reason, they believe, even if you did earn a certification or volunteer to work till 5 on Christmas Eve.

2) It’s not fair to you.

If your boss has any sense of propriety, he overthinks any perceived favoritism towards you and overbalances, giving the goodies to someone else. Worse yet, the day he overcompensates may be the most important day of all. He leads a round of applause for your latest achievement at the staff meeting but gives your well-deserved promotion or larger share of the bonus pool to someone else to avoid criticism.

3) It stymies your workplace relationships with your peers.

They fear everything they say will come back to the boss, perhaps even misquoted. They may consciously (or unconsciously) torpedo your work thanks to jealousy. If your company has a highly competitive “rank and yank” culture, the problem is worse. And if your boss wises up and pulls back on the relationship between the two of you, you may find yourself friendless.

4) You may find yourself working way too hard.

If your boss is burdened and decides to delegate more effectively, he may turn to you solely because he assumes you really understand (and you don’t have the independence to say “no.” Well, you wouldn’t say “no,” would you? I thought so.) Instead, offer to ask a coworker to share in the assignment. By the way, it’s the boss’s duty to ask the coworker, not yours. It’s a way for management to get the work done, not a personal favor to you.

5) It tempts you to go on a power trip.

Because you have unique access to the boss, you may try to claim an authority role to which you have no rights. This will certainly ignite the opposition and can put you in an untenable position. It can invite coworkers to go over your boss’s head to complain to upper management and get action.

6) You won’t find out the areas in which you need improvement until it is too late.

You need constructive criticism, even if it is painful to hear at the onset. You may be passed over for a juicy assignment or a promotion because your boss and other management believe you are not up to the challenge unless you improve your performance. If your boss finds it too uncomfortable to tell you the truth, she may claim to have recommended you when in reality she did not. You may never learn the weaknesses you could otherwise overcome.

7) Real-life Issues.

Real-life friendships can lead to blasting out news on social media about your relationship that you would prefer others not see. Back before Facebook and such, it was easier to keep your private life private. Today, nothing is a secret even if you yourself are discreet in the news and photos that you share.

Having a positive, constructive, and trusting relationship with your boss is always a good thing…but…if your boss is (or is becoming) your BFF, NOW is the time to reconsider and change course! The situation may require a frank heart-to-heart with your supervisor. You may even want to find a job in another department or another company. Take action to put your relationship on a sound footing immediately and prevent risk to your career.

Diana Schneidman

I have freelanced and consulted since 1992 while also holding full-time corporate marketing positions during some of that period. Freelance writer specializing in the insurance industry. Marketing communications, market research reports and competitive intelligence for insurance, asset management and general business.

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