You’ve Got A Friend Or Do You Think You Have A Friend?

Vantage Points Header Joel Elveson

“I’ve got a great relationship with my boss. He and I are the best of friends. I will never have to worry about my job. My boss would never let anything happen to me. Besides his wife and my wife have known each other for years.”

CAN YOUR BOSS really be your friend? When the time comes to make that difficult decision as to who stays and who goes will your “friendship” factor in?

From the day I started my very first job as a Messenger/Clerk in an Insurance Brokerage Office I worked for many different kinds of bosses. Some were incredible inspirators who knew what direction to point me in. Some were tough and nerve-wracking to work for while others down to earth. One fellow, I worked under eventually became what I thought was a really good friend and just a good guy. Having lived through a bevy of mistakes in life we somehow formed a bond. A bond that broker the day he fired me by e-mail.

Please forgive the bitter brooding tone of this article but as a person whose livelihood depends on forming associations with those who are empowered to hire and fire I would be remiss in my duties if I did not give you a small dose of reality on this issue. From my experiences and I am sure from many others it can be said safely a boss can never be a truly trusted friend. It’s just not possible!

There are those who would strenuously disagree with my opinions based on the relationship they have with their boss. How the boss has been there for his employee in their darkest hour. Offering support (financial, emotional, etc.) that seems everlasting. It is potentially possible the core of the relationship will never change. This is an exception to the rule. As for things never changing all I can say is never does not always mean forever.

The boss is the boss! He must clearly be in charge leaving no doubt he is in charge. Final decisions are his to make. Taking a myriad of facts and factors into account he must do what he feels best represents the interest of the company. Rewarded with that responsibility how will your “friend” see you in the grand scheme of things. If he thinks he can replace you with somebody who will do more work for less money making him a hero in the eyes of his board or stockholders is he going to sacrifice his ascension into corporate superstardom for the sake of keeping his golfing partner?

Manpower costs vs the profit margin. The cost of labor vs. the need to increase profits. In this equation does friendship sound like it factors in at all? In truth whether you or I agree or disagree business and friendships with management are not synonymous with each other. To “get down to business” means exactly that. “This is about business so don’t take this personally” It’s just about business and doing business.

Now let me make a 180-degree turn. I happen to agree that friendships in business (especially in the same office) are ticking time bombs. Never do business with friends! Never do a friend a favor by hiring him just because he needs a job. The strains and stresses of everyday business can and will overpower and destroy your friendship. Why would you allow yourself to be put into this position?

Husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters and on and on often face the same fate. The underlying need to be the one instead of them can quickly engulf your relationship cutting through like a knife through melting butter.

You’ve got a friend? Look around with both eyes and ears open. You may soon find that your friend is no longer a friend and cannot be your friend as it just is not mean to be.


Joel Elveson
Joel Elveson
INDEPENDENT Executive Recruiting By Joel is an "up and coming" Executive Search Firm formed and headed up by Joel Elveson whose visionary ideas, leadership & creativity have brought to life a more "user-friendly" approach to recruiting. His clients and candidates form powerful strategic partnerships that we use to help you. Joel’s Firm offers Permanent, Temporary (case by case), & Temporary To Permanent staffing solutions for all of your Human Capital Requirements. Contract IT/Consultants are available if needed. Above and beyond they are experts (by way of their personal industry work experience) with mortgage, mortgage banking, middle-market banking, accounting, along with many others under the vast financial spectrum of disciplines. Their business goes beyond candidate recruiting as they also train, mentor and develop your internal recruiting staff with an eye towards helping you reduce the cost of hiring. They will also work in areas such as compensation, effective onboarding processes and alike. In other words, their business is to help your business by becoming an extension of you by filling in gaps that cause delay or waste. The recruiting methods employed by Joel’s team are time tested that results in a high rate of successful placements. Joel was trained in the art of recruiting by some of the top staffing industry executives in addition to the best recruiter trainers who to this day drive me to exceed the lofty goals he has set forth.

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  1. Another remarkable lesson from the one that knows both Human Resources and Personnel Management areas better than the back of most hands,including his own, of course!

    Thanks a lot, Dear Joel Sir, for calling a spade a spade. The best of relationships falter when monetary considerations come to the fore, and working together, in the same place, whether as colleagues or the boss and a subordinate, is no exception.

    • Bharat, Thank you for your not only kind comments which are right on point.
      I once worked for a husband & wife owned an insurance agency.
      Thier personal fights reflected in the way they treated their employees as well as their fighting in front of everybody including
      clients who came into the office.
      I also worked for a brother and sister insurance office whose fights in Italian were legendary.
      In short, this tpye of set-up causes more problems that lead to client loss in addition to the employees feeling very insecure and not sure who is really in charge
      The way I know Human Resources is having dealt with enough of them while Personnel Management from other places I worked in addition to my own methods.
      Thank you again, Bharat.

  2. I agree that usually, your boss is not your friend. However, I have worked with both my father and my brother for many years and never had a problem with either one of them. I think it was because we respected one another and valued what each brought to the practice……I am a dental hygienist and my dad & brother, both dentists. As all were excellent and competent practitioners it was easy to work together as our aim was to deliver the best services to our patients and our standards were very high. We also had regular staff meetings to discuss whatever was good and bad going on and how to keep up the good and fix the problems. So, I guess it does depend on the way the relationship is structured.

  3. When enough pressure is applied, no matter who you are, you will all act the same. You will be unethical. You will be manipulative. You will stab others in the back. You, like all humans, are designed to do really bad things. But, you like all humans are also designed to do really good things. But to do these good things, you must know how you and the others you work with respond to various levels of pressure.

    When you have a friend, your question should be, how much pressure will need to applied to your friend to make them your enemy?

    • Hi Chris, I have a friend whom I have know for over 40 years. the buildings we lived in faced each other. Despite some hiccups, our friendship has remained strong. There are some really good people out there. There are some really bad people out there. It is not hard to get tricked into believing the bad one is good or the good person is bad. Thank you, Chris, for your comments which are always well written and thought-provoking. I hope the New Year will be a very happy, healthy, and prosperous one for you. Thank you for all your comments this past year.

    • Ken, I happen to be in full agreement with you. It is very rare a boss can be friends with their employee. Too many things can happen that would make maintaining both parts of the relationships. Thank you, Ken, for your comments. I look forward to your continued readership. Happy New Year!

  4. Hey Joel. I’ve done both. Boss as friend. It actually did work for me while we were working together, but we were always on the same page, same values etc. We were the dynamic duo. When we both received our notification that our office location was closing, he hired me to help him on a project. I also hired a friend. It was great at first, went real bad, then we were able to turn it around through extensive open honest communication and she became the best employee I ever had!

    I know. I’m the exception!

    • Nan,
      It is great you were able to be a friend and a boss. You accomplished something that is so rare. You are to be congratulated. Thank you for your insightful comments as well as the time you took to read my article. I hope you have a very Happy New Year.