Why can colleagues never be good friends?

Why your boss shouldn't be your friend

Hissing a beer after work and skiing together on vacation: We like to think of the perfect boss as a good friend. But is it really advisable to be friends with the person who makes the better or worse of your career? After all, the friendly relationship with the boss can have some unpleasant consequences.

The boss and you - and the envious colleagues

You worked hard for your raise. For the past few months you've practically stayed under your desk and on your last coffee break you were still an apprentice. But what for you the clearly earned wages of your work is now arousing mistrust and envy in your colleagues. If you can be better with the boss than others, you may have to put up with accusations of undeserved favoritism. Probably no colleague will confront you with this suspicion directly. However, you can expect hateful comments behind your back. If the boss has chosen a favorite, it can lead to a cool to hostile working atmosphere in the team. Jealous colleagues are said to have broken many a favorite cup or even sabotaged entire projects. A thick skin is required here.


"Lots of jealous colleagues." - kununu employee evaluation at Rosenbauer International AG

A friend who doesn't always stand by you

You presented your current project in the meeting with burning passion: In your eyes, a stroke of genius that will be talked about for a long time. But somehow your ideas don't really resonate with the audience. And then the boss turns against you, who was your best buddy at the morning coffee. As a manager, however, he is obliged to be honest with criticism. Even if it hurts: Ultimately, he is responsible for the performance and productivity of his employees. You understand that purely rationally. Nevertheless, you will probably find the criticism more insulting if it comes from a boss who is also your friend. After all, your friends should be the ones who will rebuild you if one of your glorious ideas crashes. And not the ones who put you down for it too. To manage the balancing act between friendship and job is usually difficult.


"The boss is insidious and unfair." - kununu employee evaluation at Rösle GmbH & Co. KG

To be honest ... better not.

It's not enough for a doctor's sick leave, but you still don't really feel like going to work today. You somehow drag yourself to the office and kill the time until the end of the day by watching cat videos and clicking your way through psychological tests. You haven't really been attached to your job for a long time. There must be more for you out there, right? Fortunately, you have your current résumé saved on your desktop at all times. All things that are safe to discuss with a friend. But with the boss? No matter how close the friendship with your superior is: You will still have to refrain from certain thoughts in the conversation. But shouldn't one always be able to be honest in a friendship?


“There are hardly any hierarchies. The boss is one of the team. "- kununu employee evaluation at CallOne GmbH

"It's not up to you, but ..."

Speaking of dissatisfied at work: what if you turn the corner at some point? A termination is only in very few cases a pleasant affair. Even if all the signs are on Go stand and you know it's better that way. Having to explain to the boss face-to-face why you want to break up is simply no picnic. If you also have a good friendship with the boss, it complicates the situation. "It's not up to you, but ..." But what then? Even if it's really not because of your best boss forever: Your termination can give the friendship a crack. After all, you're letting the team and the boss-buddy down for your own benefit. Brutally. But maybe it also has a positive effect on your friendship if you go your separate ways professionally.


"Communication? Only if you give notice of termination. " - kununu employee evaluation at labuniq GmbH

Friendly criticism is not enough

Hand on heart: Who has not lied in the face of their girlfriend boldly when she turned up with a thoroughly wrong haircut? Or praised the partner's over-salty disgusting spaghetti and then disposed of them in a potted plant? If your boss is a good friend at the same time, he'll likely look benevolently over your weaknesses more often than not. At the same time, you like to lean back and make yourself comfortable when no one is standing behind you with the proverbial whip to push you on. Of course, the ideal boss shouldn't be a control freak or a tyrant. But only through honest criticism and constructive feedback can you develop your professional skills and surpass yourself.

A good supervisor will sometimes confront you with unpleasant projects and point out your weaknesses. A necessary criticism among friends would often be too friendly and not too confrontational to the recipient. “But good critical discussions have to be uncomfortable. Then the employee has the motivation: I don't want such unpleasant conversations again. So he changes his behavior ”, describes author Markus Jotzo. In his book The boss nobody likedhe dedicates himself to exactly this phenomenon. Markus Jotzo explains: “As a friend, I want to be liked - and that's a good thing. As a boss, I want to be respected, but not always liked. So having a friend as a boss is a clear contradiction. "

Break up with the boss

You have probably already had a friend with whom you could drink through the nights and cope with any life crisis. For a while you were inseparable, your BFF and you. But suddenly nothing is as it was: the boyfriend is kind of weird, the mood is depressed. Often something specific doesn't even have to happen to herald the end of a friendship. In private life, friendships that have become unpopular can now easily be ended. WhatsApp messages are only answered sporadically with emojis and Snapchat messages are more and more often left unopened. At some point the whole thing fizzles out without the need for a big debate. But what if you inevitably see the boyfriend at work every day? And what if the boyfriend has your career in his hands on top of that? Sure you are both adult and professional... But strictly separating personal and professional life is pretty much the biggest office lie since “It's at the top of my to-do list.” In the worst case, you have to reorient yourself professionally after your private break with your boss.

Friends with the boss: Yay or nay?

Toast with the boss after work in the evening or play squash together on the weekend? Both legitimate and enviable. Nevertheless, the friendship with a person who has to act as a mentor, motivational speaker, coach and occasionally also a judge has its limits. Whether the balancing act between professional and private is successful cannot be answered per se. It depends a lot on you and your boss. However, you should be aware of the risks and side effects before exchanging friendship bracelets with your manager.