The Female Boss is Your Friend: Act Ethically and Get Promoted

So you think you’re a hard working employee.  Maybe you exceed company expectations in almost every measurable category directly pertaining to your position.  You’ve put in a couple years of dedicated service, and in this time frame you’ve managed to befriend your boss.  Your boss happens to be female, and occasionally you informally socialize with her outside of the workplace. 

You’ve been respectful in the past and have established a solid rapport with her.  Does the existence of this informal relationship give you the right to stretch the rules of the work environment?  “She likes me.  She’ll let me get away with a little tardiness.  Won’t she?”  It’s this kind of attitude that quickly eats away at the relationship and dismantles all levels of the trust and respect you’ve constructed in the past.

I’m a young female professional, and yes, I am the boss.  I’m fair and compassionate, but I expect results.  I certainly expect my employees to follow the rules, but above all I expect honesty.  Because I choose to occasionally socialize with my employees in an informal setting, they sometimes feel that they can use this as a free pass to slack off at work.  When this occurs, I find myself in an uncomfortable situation. 

If I let them slide, my reputation as a fair manager is in jeopardy.  The image I portray and the example I set becomes tarnished.  Other employees see me favoring their peers over themselves and quickly become displeased.  My credibility is lost.  If I take the necessary disciplinary action, I personally feel horrible.  Punishing or firing someone that you’ve established an informal relationship with can be disheartening.

In the end it basically comes down to “me or them”.  Their unethical behavior will either negatively affect my professional reputation, or I must hold them accountable for their actions.  This is something many of my employees continuously overlook.  They don’t see the immediate affect their actions have on me.  They don’t understand that the compassion I show outside of the workplace is completely unrelated to my leniency at work.

Does my sex have something to do with their misinterpretation of reality?  I know females are typically seen as more empathetic than their male counterparts.  So do they think I’m a pushover? Who knows.  Some may say that one way to avoid the situation is to cease the habit of informal socialization.  But, that would be a sad situation.  I truly believe the fostering of an informal relationship can increase overall employee moral and ambition.  I know it can easily benefit both parties.  Employees just need to follow the basic rules.

Do you informally socialize with your boss?  If so, allow me to layout a concise summation of my experiences and expectations.  I’ll make this really short and sweet.  Here’s a quick reality check of what not to do, and how to harness this informal relationship and use it to your advantage:

Understand this…
There is a distinct separation between business and pleasure.  Believe me, your boss understands this fact.  Don’t cross the line by believing that a stronger informal relationship gives you the ability to break the rules of the workplace.  Also, bragging to your coworkers about the conversations you had with your boss can easily start negative rumors.  This will reflect poorly on your perceived honesty and dedication.

React like this…
Reinforce the informal relationship by proving yourself within the workplace.  Instead of slacking off, do the exact opposite.  Take pride in your work, and go the extra mile.  If your boss takes the time to get to know a little more about your personal life, she probably holds you in high regard.  Don’t screw it up by disrespecting her authority in a professional atmosphere.  Instead, use it to your advantage.  If your boss likes you, she will be willing to spend more time assisting you, training you, and ultimately promoting you.  The choice is yours.  You can lose your credibility, or you can place yourself on the fast track for promotion.  It should be a no-brainer. 


  1. says

    I agree 100%.

    In my own professional life, I’ve had the pleasure of working for more than one excellent female boss (I am male). I’m glad to see that you embrace your management style. Too often women in management feel that they must act “male” to get ahead. In my experience it just doesn’t work. It’s uncomfortable for everyone. Frankly, the workplace culture could use some feminine touch ups: empathy, social interaction, collaboration, less posturing, more team focus, less individual focus etc. Workgroups all benefit from these traditionally shunned concepts. Also, I’ve found women to be more willing to ask questions and admit fault. That goes a long way to showing the workgroup that you’re not afraid. If you’re not afraid of us, we will look upon you with awe and respect. Male managers (in my experience) have a tendency to say, “my way or the highway” even when they have no clue. Those types of managers who are fearful of their position reveal themselves quickly and engender nothing but contempt and lack of respect.

    Ask questions, gain respect.
    Pretend to know it all, lose respect.

    It’s pretty simple.

    As for social interaction, I had one boss in particular case. She used a group dynamic to protect herself and also get to know us. She treated her team to a monthly group social outing (this was in Spain… dunno if monthly social outings are the norm in the US) and didn’t play favorites, but showed interest in each of her team members. I think it was the best of both worlds. She got to know us better. We got to know her better, but the boss/subordinate relationship stayed intact.

    Might be a good way to have your cake and eat it too.

  2. LindaP says

    I have had the unfortunate experience of my becoming an employee of my best friend. My track record in my organization is, and always has been, stellar. Unfortunately, my boss/ex-best friend used her position over me in the company in an attempt to intimidate me regarding a personal, non-work related issue.

    Threats of reporting me to HR were made by her during a heated argument. This is unacceptable to me, as I have always thought that I had to prove myself even more to the organization and my peers to show non-favoritism and have always gone above and beyond to do that.

    The fact that those two little letters “HR” were uttered during our personal conversation were something that opened my eyes to the fact that when you work for your best friend, it’s them or you. I chose me and reported the confrontation to her boss, who was not a happy camper about her comments. Needless to say, I have since severed our ties outside of the office and while I am still the professional I have always been, it’s been a lesson in the whole human psyche that it’s every man for him or herself.

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