Just How Friendly Is Too Friendly, Boss?


When I moved from St. Louis to Las Vegas I moved from my true home city; from the area where I’d spent most of my life and where most of my family are. Due to circumstances beyond our control, my wife, DeLyle, wasn’t able to move with me. She’ll come later after she can secure a job. So this means that when I’m not at work I’m largely alone, and that’s…well,…lonely. So, I’m in a new city where I have no friends and no family separated by my wife by 1,600 miles and two time zones. The only people I’m meeting are my coworkers and they, by and large, are either people I supervise or are people who supervise me. How do I make friends or meaningful social connections in this environment? Should I, even?

I’m fortunate that, so far, I like everyone I’ve met. Some are introverts. Some are extroverts. Some are shy. Some are outgoing. We have a good mix. Being an outgoing introvert I like meeting people and spending time with them, preferably with an escape plan. I’ve gone to shoot pool a couple of times with one co-worker, who, actually I neither supervise nor are supervised by. He’s been fun to hang around with. The first night we were out with a group of people I made it clear that if I directly supervised any of those people I wouldn’t be there. It wasn’t appropriate, I thought, for a supervisor to party with his employees. What if something happened that affected the work relationship? What if we became good friends, then I had to discipline him or her later? Better to just avoid it and stay safe.

It’s probably best to keep it that way.

But I probably won’t, at least for now.

Being alone in a city is never easy. There are new streets, new cultures, new weather, etc. The people you meet at work are your initial lifeline to human interaction. I’m an introvert, not a hermit. I need that human connection as much as most people. When a different coworker — this time one that I do supervise — asked me about getting a group together for going to a bar, my initial reaction was to say “no.” That’s not appropriate. And the invitation should definitely not come from me. No one should ever be forced to socialize with their boss outside of work, and an invite to do Tapas from your boss, may feel like an obligation to the shy, less assertive, or anyone, really.

I saw another employee at Wal-Mart one day. We waived “hello” from twenty feet away and made no effort to chit-chat. While the self-conscious part of me thought, “Why wasn’t she friendlier? Does she not like me? What’s wrong?” The sensible part of me chimed in and said, “Dude, you’re her boss. She doesn’t want to hang out with you.” That felt right and I was able to move on with my life.

But if my employees do want to hang out with me, can or should I do it? Still, my initial reaction is to say, “no,” but another part of me — I honestly don’t know if its the sensible one, or not — says, “you should do this.” Why? Because,

  1. I like these people.
  2. I have no friends, locally.
  3. I want to be a friendly and available boss that is a part of the team, not above it.

Is it risky? Sure, but so was moving 1/3 of the way across the country. I do that sometimes. Also, I’m a grownup. I know my boundaries and I know my limits. I really think I can do this.

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