5 key considerations before you get chummy with your boss

An amicable relationship with your supervisor is essential to success in your professional life. Overdoing it can have damaging consequences, though.

It’s a fabulous thing when the stars align and you gain a great boss in taking a new job.

What makes him or her “great?” Perhaps, it’s a terrific personality—this one isn’t the usual stuffy leader.

Maybe, it’s genuine concern about your well-being. Your manager frequently asks about your family and how things are going generally.

All in all, there are myriad reasons why your boss might be “great.”

It is human nature that we become comfortable with people who make us feel at ease. Just how comfortable we become is a matter of discernment and individual disposition.

Still, when it comes to the people you report to, how friendly is too friendly?

I think there is such a thing as being too familiar, too friendly, too close with your boss. I have been too close for comfort, and it has gone wrong. I also have been very familiar, and it has been just right.

Here are five things to consider when it comes to befriending your boss:

  1. There is a difference between being “friendly” and being “friends.” You may come to know things about each other over time, but it wise not to misconstrue pleasantries for friendship. If you have ever had a seemingly “great” boss, you will know why this is important.
  2. Your personal affairs are none of your boss’s business. I don’t care how friendly or nice your boss is, there are limits to what you should share. Oversharing gives your boss too clear a window into your life and could provide fodder for making decisions about your employment and/or career opportunities.
  3. Listen more. Observe more. Speak only when necessary. It could be the introvert in me, but I like to observe people before I become friendly with them. I need to assess people and watch how they operate. Doing this has helped me, because it gives me a leg up on understanding whether I ought to tread lightly or I can loosen up a bit.
  4. Never gossip with your boss about others in the organization. Notice that I said “loosen up a bit” in No. 3. After you have observed your leaders and decided, “Hey, they’re cool,” stop yourself short of gossip. Some will gladly indulge you in this kind of talk-especially if it allows them to blow off steam about people you in your workplace. In the long run, though, talk gets around, and it will never be the boss who looks bad if you were involved in a gossip session. It will be your rear end in the fire—always.
  5. Nos. 1-4 will not apply to every boss . The key is understanding and knowing what makes them tick-and considering in advance what could go wrong for you.

If the pros outweigh the cons and you’ve found yourself a good egg, go for it-skip through a meadow together if you like.

However, if you are unsure and you tend to be a happy-go-lucky person with everyone, take a step back and consider a friendly but professional relationship.

Working with leaders with varied personalities, agendas and management styles can be challenging. Don’t befriend a boss until you’ve considered the ramifications of a more personal relationship with someone who manages you.

A version of this article originally appeared on Janine Truitt’s The Aristocracy of HR blog.


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