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Continue Friendship with my Boss?

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When I began my job about two years ago, I quickly became acquainted a small group of equals with whom I would spend breaks, lunches, and the occasional social visit outside of work. I would not say by any means that we were best friends, but rather connected by our common work situation. Since this time, most of us have gone our separate ways, either leaving the company or moving to different departments.


One of the married men in this group, with whom I enjoy spending time with tremendously, became my boss about 8 months ago. I had my doubts at the time about reporting to him, feeling our growing friendship would not be conducive to a good work relationship, but I tolerated it.


More recently, however, I lost trust in him about non-work-related issues, and because of our previous friendship there were rumors that our friendship was more than platonic, so I thereforeeee requested a change in supervision to avoid conflict, which was granted.


About two weeks after that change, I acted childish & unprofessional and shared some office gossip with him, believing we were friendly enough that he would not share this information after I asked him not to. I was wrong, because he immediately shared this information with one of his subordinates (my equal). I was irate when I found this out, feeling betrayed both personally and professionaly.


My retaliation was to call him horrible names and to accuse him of a rumored affair between him and his subordinate that my gossip was about. When he tried to reason that it was not true, I said I couldn't believe him because he lied to me before.


In the sober light of day, I realize that adultery was a horrible accusation to make, and even if it were true, it would be none of my business.


This is a lesson learned that I will not share "gossip" with him anymore, as I felt a betrayal of trust. By his tone, though, I think he feels bad about it (or he is a good actor.)


I know I owe him an apology for the terrible names and accusations, I just don't know the appropriate way.


I am very sad that our friendship has to end because I do find him fun to be around. I guess what I am needing advice on is:

1. Does our friendship have to end? Should it have ended the minute he became my superior?

2. Do I apologize about the accusation, or just avoid him altogether and hope the whole thing just blows over in time?


Thanks for any advice on how to move on in a professional way from this painful and admittedly childish situation.

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Ok... I'm not clear on if you guys were friends outside of work, or just for things like going out to lunch or breaks etc.


It sounds like part of the problem was not being sure of how to deal with him from the get go when he became your supervisor. Understandable, and probably something you guys should've talked about right at the beginning with his promotion, but water under the bridge if you didn't, and just something to keep in mind for the future.


It IS possible to be friends with someone you work with. The biggest thing I've found is drawing a clear line/separating between how you interact on a professional level, and how you react "off the job" so to speak. And it really does mean you've got to talk to each other and make clear that work is work, you'll accept and indeed encourage being treated as any other employee for job related things, and the "friends" only comes into play on breaks, lunch, and after hours. I had one of my best friends, and before that, my mom, as direct supervisors, so I know it can work, with well, work.


After hours etc the superior/subordinate positions have to cease to exist. During work, they must exist at all times. Anything else hurts either the friendship, or creates an environment where there's favoritism, which will lead to other problems at work.


Separate issue - gossip. Rule number one - if it's interesting enough for you to tell someone, odds are they will ALSO find it interesting enough to repeat. You have to hope their judgement of who they repeat it TO is sound. Everyone needs a confidante, and NOT everyone is a great judge of who can keep a secret. Sounds like he misjudged who HE could trust as well. (I'm sure he didn't ask this third person to go repeating what he said either, you know?) Best bet with office gossip? If you have to talk to someone about what's going on at work - make it a party you DON'T work with.


Your personal trust was betrayed - but professionally he really didn't do any more than you had - he repeated gossip. It sounds like there was still some tension over his change in position related to you, and acting unprofessionally (using poor judgement) was the human mistake you both made. As it seems you've concluded yourself, it should've ended here. You should've confronted him directly after hours and told him directly he betrayed your trust by repeating something you'd asked him to keep private.


Retaliating the way you did you already know was wrong. I'd have to say whether or not the friendship can be salvaged, apologizing is the right thing to do.


Ask him to meet you after work hours for a cup of coffee and sit down and go over this with him honestly. You'll get to apologize for your part, and from what you're saying, he'd probably apologize as well. Clear the air, and then talk to him about the possibility of remaining friends, or rebuilding your friendship. At the very least you won't have the tension of this unresolved conflict hovering over the both of you.


To answer your questions bluntly...


1. No, it doesn't, and it really shouldn't have had anything to do with his becoming your superior. You'll know not to let things go this far without talking things out and arriving at a mutual understanding before anything like this happens again though - consider it a valuable lesson. You're GOING to make friends with people in the departments you work in throughout your life - and there's surely no guarantee, as a matter of fact it's inevitable, you won't generally get promoted at the same time. You don't need to lose friends every time this happens, you just need to know how to handle it when it comes up.


2. Avoiding the situation - I wouldn't. This isn't the personal or professional impression you want to leave with this guy, or anyone else you know. It's also not something you need tapping on your shoulder nagging at you. Take a deep breath, tell discomfort and pride to take a coffee break with each other (or take a long walk over a cliff for a while), and get approaching him to talk about it calmly over with. Even if you can't save the friendship per se, you'll feel better knowing you didn't run from it and tried to straighten things out.

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