Friday, June 20, 2008

My Boss, My Friend

Can you be friends with your boss? I don’t mean just hanging-out-after-a-long-day-at-the-office kind of buddy but an honest to goodness true friend. The kind you can trust, confide in and share your thoughts and feelings to freely, without reserve.

In my previous job, I became good friends with my boss. I remember the day she interviewed me, I had an inkling we would be friends despite our different ranks. There were times in the beginning that I felt shy towards her and thus was less open with her compared to our other workmates, but we became pretty tight pretty quickly. It helped that she reached out to me and sort of broke down the invisible wall separating her, the boss, from me, her subordinate. We both knew when it was time for work and when it was “chikka time”, so to speak. When I eventually transferred to another department and we weren’t able to see each other as frequently, the friendship remained. I even ended up asking her to be one of my bridesmaids.

Someone dear to me felt she had that kind of relationship with her own boss. They had worked together a few years ago in another company but parted ways when she got married. Later, her boss sought her out and offered her a job to work together again. All seemed well, the new job was demanding and ripe with office intrigues and politics but they trudged on, optimistic for the future. They were a great team, after all. But soon, the difficulties of the job took its toll on the boss and she felt tempted to give up and accept a more lucrative job elsewhere. The boss had earlier confided about these developments to my friend and although it made her nervous she believed that she wouldn’t be left in the dark precisely because they had a good personal relationship, beyond the office.

However, a strange thing happened. The boss retreated from my friend and their regular meetings turned into pure business, they didn’t talk anymore about anything else. The invisible wall was up and it seemed to grow higher and higher. Around their office, rumors were flying that the boss would be resigning and their department looked to my friend for the truth, she was after all, the closest one to the boss. But my friend could only shrug because she didn’t know what was going on either. A few days before the boss went on a sabbatical leave she talked to my friend and told her everything. She was going on a long vacation but would be back to see the completion of the project. Meanwhile, she put my friend in charge of the team. My friend felt somewhat relieved that finally the boss had told her the truth, but somehow she felt that this episode had changed how she saw her boss. She had become less of a friend and now seemed more like a distant boss.

Looking back, I feel fortunate that I had such a cool boss who I could actually enjoy spending time with outside the confines of the office. I feel bad for my friend and what happened to her and her boss. I now realize that my experience is not something you see everyday. It was indeed rare and precious to be friends with my boss.

So do you think you can be real friends with your boss? I guess the answer is, you’re lucky if you can be.

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