Respect the hierarchy.
“You have to accept the consequences of your own behavior,” says Card, when discussing valuable traits of a good employee. Sometimes though, personal relationships with a superior can not only diminish employees’ ability to respect boundaries, but they can also make it hard for a boss to hold underlings accountable.
Card, who had known President Bush for years prior to serving in his White House, was worried about his future boss’s potentially clouded judgment before he even took the job. “When the president asked me to be chief of staff, I literally said to him, ‘Mr. President, you know that if I’m your chief of staff, I can no longer be your friend. You’ll be my friend, and I won’t ever want to let you down, but I will just be a staffer who also happens to be in charge of the rest of the staff,” he remembers, noting that the president was taken aback at first.
There must be a level of unfeeling calculation for a good employee-boss relationship to prosper. It’s not good for anyone – including you – if a friendship with your boss is preventing them from getting the best out of you. It means neither of you is working to the best of his ability. This was especially true for Card, whose boss’s position didn’t allow for the luxury of tact. “I said, ‘You can’t feel guilty about hurting me or arguing with me. You have to let me know what your real thoughts are,’ ” Card says. “I didn’t want President Bush to not tell me his real feelings. If it hurt me, so be it.”
Personal relationships create blind spots, and it can be tempting to take advantage of a friend’s affection. Don’t. Even in a job with less at stake than White House chief of staff, it’s important to find a happy medium where your boss can be your friend without either of you forgetting who’s the boss.
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