Friend or boss? How to set boundaries

Your boss might also run into difficulties during performance reviews – it’s hard not to let
friendly relationships get in the way of what might otherwise be tricky conversations. Imagine how much more difficult it could be for your friend-boss to address performance issues or answer your questions around pay and promotions. It’s also about the (sometimes subconscious) expectations you might develop that’ll set you apart from everyone else in the team.

If you’re stressed or angry in the workplace, you’re far more likely to let your emotions show in front of a friend-boss than you would within the confines of a strictly professional relationship – and this isn’t okay.

Jay Munro is head of career insights at Indeed.

Jay Munro is head of career insights at Indeed.

Problems can also arise as a result of the personal conversations between you and your boss in the workplace. These types of conversations can easily cause other staff members to feel left out of the loop.

Of course, it’s not in our nature to resist becoming friends with people we get on with, and with many workplaces priding themselves on their social activities, it shouldn’t be discouraged. Instead, these relationships need to be carefully managed.

To start with, you should have an open conversation with your boss about the things you can and can’t do while at work – such as talking about your social life. By acknowledging the existence of the
relationship on both sides, you’ll have more control over avoiding behaviours that might disrupt your performance or team dynamic.

Greater awareness also gives you the power to suggest and make changes which could not only help
your performance at work but also facilitate a better professional relationship with your


Careful management of your friendship in the workplace is crucial, but you shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that it’s the duty of your boss to lead the way in setting appropriate boundaries.

As an adult, it’s up to you to take ownership and responsibility for how your friendship might
affect others and what you’ll do about it. While your boss could be concerned with how your friendship might affect overall team performance, you might be more concerned with how this friendship affects your day-to-day working relationships and credibility among team members.

If you form a friendship with your boss, it demands more consciousness than your other friendships. The earlier you have the “boundary” conversation and the more aware you are, the easier your work-life and friendship balance will be.

This content was produced in commercial partnership with Indeed.

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