Do you work in a tight knit office? Perhaps your coworkers are more like family than distant cubicle neighbors? For those that go to work each day and step into a cold environment where coworkers are but strangers, such a warm scenario is hard to imagine. You must be grateful to work for a company that values relationships and encourages employees to get to know one another on a more personal level.

However, it is also important to proceed with caution when it comes to such a family-like office environment. It is sometimes hard to distinguish clear boundaries when you have a conference room full of good friends, and there are times when business must come first and relationships may be strained in the process. If a new project is brought to the table and one employee is chosen over another to steer things up, then there can suddenly become a newfound tension in the room. When your team is forced to divide and conquer to get the job done, then this can sometimes be difficult when comradery has been established and competition is now enforced. What was once a peaceful, family-like atmosphere may quickly sour as friends are pulled in different directions.

This same principle can prove true when it comes to building a close relationship with your employer. A boss is someone that is in charge and has been placed in the position of authority for a reason. Although he or she wants to have a good rapport with employees, there must also be a clear line that has been set for proper professional behavior, both inside and outside of the office. There is nothing wrong with getting to know each other and even getting to know one another’s family. When there are framed photos all over the office, then, of course, it’s natural to learn names and recognize those faces when you attend company events or parties. But, how far is too far when it comes to fraternizing with your boss outside of work?

If you and your boss are both members of the same gym, then you will, of course, see one another there from time to time. But does that mean you need to intentionally work out together? If you and your boss shop at the same grocery store, then you will, of course, probably see his or her family members there from time to time. But does that mean that it’s okay to stand in the aisle and gab with your boss’ wife for 30 minutes? Oftentimes it doesn’t take much intense thought to recognize where proper lines should be drawn, and you have to think of the bigger picture when establishing these boundaries.

How will other employees feel if they sense that you are getting overly chummy with the CEO? How will you feel when your employer is forced to start handing out pink slips and your name is on the list? For these reasons, it is important to have a happy yet healthy relationship with your employer. If you feel unsure on where to draw that line or need help developing a more professional brand for yourself around the office, then we would be happy to speak to you and offer our best career advice!