I read today where someone coaching young managers told them that the answer to the question, “Can you be friends with your boss” is absolutely NO.
Bullshit. Plain Bullshit. Anyone making such a blanket statement is a moron.
How do I know? Because I am a subject matter expert. I am great friends with my previous four bosses. One of them I worked for for 5 years, then he worked for me for five years, then we did a startup where I worked for him, and if I had the chance to work with him again tomorrow I would – no matter which of us were the boss.
Even when I was in the Navy 25 years ago I was friends with my bosses. There is NO REASON you can’t be friends with your boss. Sure, if you just hate each other, it won’t work – but there is no reason that you can’t be friends. If you could be friends if you weren’t boss/employee then you CAN be friends as boss and employee. There are just a few rules to follow. They are pretty much common sense.
1) The boss is the boss. It’s their job. They won’t always make sense to you, but you have to trust that they are doing what needs to be done – until they give you reason to expect otherwise.
2) You need your boss as much as your boss needs you. As one of my first Managers once told me, “You don’t get to the top of the ladder by climbing over the bodies of your employees. Instead, you empower them enough that they push you up the ladder”
3) Your boss is human. He or she needs friends as much as you do. He or she will make mistakes, just as you will.
4) If you and your boss have mutual respect and trust, there is no reason you can’t be friends.
5) If you wouldn’t be friends outside the office, then you just don’t click. You won’t be friends inside the office. But you can still have respect and trust. But both of you have to earn it. And prove it. Again. And Again. You are never “done” earning trust and respect. Ever.
I’ve always worked hard – but never with more tenacity and diligence than when a friend was counting on me. And some of my best employees were certainly also my friends. I’ve even had to let a couple of them go for various reasons over the years. And many of those are still my friends.
Basically you just need to remember who the boss is. And when it comes to work, you can’t let your personal relationship interfere with work. Work is what you do, who your friends are defines who you are.