Employee Etiquette: Don't Get Too Close to Your Employer

Workplace etiquette is another word for socially acceptable behavior in the workplace. It includes team structures, behavior and how people relate to each other. One of the most important relationships is with the manager or employer. The usual social hierarchy in any workplace naturally involves the manager in various ways. However, the relationship with the boss may also be a problem.

Working with the Boss

Ironically, the most difficult problem is having too good of a relationship with the boss. The breach of etiquette isn't obvious, either. There's no actual law against having a good relationship with your boss, but socially it can be a problem in several ways. These are the etiquette issues:

  1. Perception of being an agent of the manager. This can reduce your interactions with other people in the workplace, particularly people who don't have a good relationship with the manager. You may find yourself ostracized, and/or left out of social functions.
  2. Perceptions of nepotism and favoritism are particularly damaging in the social environment of the workplace. In many cases these perceptions are entirely baseless. Office gossips, however, are malicious enough to accuse a perfectly innocent relationship of anything. It's advisable to watch out for rumors, or ask a friend if they've heard anything, if previously friendly people begin to appear hostile or unreceptive.
  3. Promotional issues are real problems. Everyone's heard the story about the friend of the boss being the one to get the job. If you get a promotion, and your boss is a friend, it can be like you've committed a crime.

The Relationship

The best way to deal with them is to make your own position very clear. Trying to appease negative elements in the workplace is not a good idea. You can look weak, and lower your status significantly. You can also offend the boss unnecessarily for no good reason.

  1. Perception of being an agent of the manager: Do not cease to be on good terms with your boss. That's not even practical in theory. You need some sort of working relationship with your manager. Make it clear that you're simply carrying out your duties, which is really an unarguable point.
  2. Perceptions of nepotism and favoritism: Good managers never indulge in nepotism. These perceptions are usually spread by under achievers in the workplace. There's no need to emphasize your role or status, just point out that you're being paid to do a job. This is another point that's very hard to argue, when you prove your point simply by doing your job.
  3. Promotional issues: A good manager will only promote on merit. You can't be the only person this manager has promoted. Ask if anyone else in the workplace has been promoted on the basis of being a friend of the boss. That should shut down the whole concept very effectively.

Just make sure that your relationship with your manager or employer is clearly understood. Your position will be respected on that basis.