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You + The Boss = BFFs? Not Quite

By Kenneth Bredemeier
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, November 23, 2007 12:00 AM

It is not uncommon for some workers to form long-lasting friendships with fellow colleagues. That doesn't mean, however, that you will develop a personal relationship with everyone at the office. But what do you do when it's the boss who wants to be friends and becomes annoyingly obtrusive?

Here is one worker's plight:

My new boss is really beginning to overwhelm me. I've recently switched departments, but remain in the same building and office space. In other words, my friends and routines (such as lunch and breaks) remain the same, but I don't think she sees it that way.

At the beginning, when she invited me to lunch I thought nothing of it. I figured that I'd just be getting to know my new boss and co-workers. However, it has since mushroomed to daily invitations, and not for the entire group -- just me. And usually the lunch can't just be grabbed at the deli next door, we have to get in her car and drive to a sit-down restaurant. I'm too busy with work to be doing this, plus I feel I've insulted the friends who I regularly go to lunch with.

I wish we could just have a friendly manager-employee relationship with a casual lunch here and there and without the pressure of being her best friend. I have no idea how to address this and would appreciate any suggestions. I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but it's really stressing me out.

This manager is out of line by asking a subordinate to lunch daily, says Patricia A. Miller, president of Patricia A. Miller HR Consulting in Seven Valleys, Pa.

"Bosses don't usually do this. They have to realize that when they make a suggestion, employees often are afraid to not go along with it," she says. This worker should keep in mind, that "if she keeps giving in [and going to lunch] the boss will think it's OK."

Miller suggests that the employee ask herself if the lunches are work-related or not. If they are, she should ask that other co-workers be included and suggest that some of the discussions be held at the office.

If the lunches are not work-related, however, Miller says the worker should feel free to decline the invitation and not feel bad about it. If the incessant invitations continue, Miller advises the worker to keep a record, because it is quite possible the manager could be engaging in some form of sexual harassment.

Kenneth Bredemeier has six years of experience writing about the workplace. On the Job, a column addressing real worker questions about office relationships, corporate policies and workplace law, is written exclusively for washingtonpost.com. To submit a question, e-mail onthejob@washingtonpost.com. We reserve the right to edit submitted questions for length and clarity and cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered.

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