My Colleagues Want to Take Advantage of My Relationship With the Boss

Last Updated Apr 16, 2009 3:13 PM EDT

Dear Ron,
My boss and I went to college together and are pretty close personal friends. Most of my colleagues know this, and lately some of them have started coming to me to see if I can help push through their idea or projects with our boss. The situation makes me uncomfortable. What should I do?
My advice would be to shut that door completely and explain to your colleagues that you and your boss keep your personal relationship separate from your work one, and that rarely, if ever, do you discuss work issues when you're spending personal time together. Whether it's true or not, saying so will keep you out of a lot of trouble. Consider what would happen if you did help to get a project going by talking it up with your boss: Your other colleagues could accuse you of showing favoritism. And if you did go to bat for someone and it didn't work out, you've potentially created some bad feelings there, too. The whole thing is a can of worms that's best left unopened.

Furthermore, there's an inherent danger here in becoming too closely identified with the boss. I remember clients telling me about one manager who had such a close relationship with a senior executive that it became clear that whatever was said in his presence went straight back to the senior exec. As his colleagues figured this out, this manager was cut out of a lot of information that he needed, and it created a situation where he was very isolated and people were very guarded around him. You need information about what's going on at your company from all sources -- superiors, colleagues, and reports alike -- and stifling any of those sources is not a situation you want to find yourself in in today's workplace.

Send Ron your career and job-related questions.

  • Ron Brown

    Ronald B. Brown is a leading expert in the fields of leadership development and organizational change. He is the founder and president of Banks Brown, a management consulting firm that specializes in providing leading-edge skills to optimize the performance of leaders and organizations. He has served as a consultant to Fortune 100 corporations such as the Procter & Gamble Company, Avon Products, Inc., McDonald's Corporation, General Electric Plastics, Kaiser Permanente, Shell Oil Company, Eastman Kodak Company, General Mills Inc., and Motorola, Inc. Brown holds a Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, and an M.A. and B.S. from Michigan State University.