I am in a positive relationship with my manager, however I wonder what the boundaries should be. What topics should be discussed? Holidays? Family? Or just work? And how much trust should be allowed? My manager will always have his own best interest, first, no matter how like he/she likes me.

I am trying to understand how to build a positive relationship with my manager, without backfiring or worse.

  • I say that because if my manager wants to promote me and somebody else wants to promote their own guy, I don't expect my manager to compromise his/her company network just because he/she believes I deserve that promotion more.
    – user38290
    Commented Nov 28, 2015 at 15:39

4 Answers 4


What topics should be discussed? Holidays? Family? Or just work? And how much trust should be allowed?

Every situation is different. Every manager's personality is different. Everyone's level of trust is different.

I tend to get very friendly with the people who work for me - particularly those who have been with me for a while. For me, socializing at work, with people who work for me, and with people I work for, is an important part of what makes work rewarding. I would be much less happy going to work every day, if I couldn't discuss life with my work friends.

Regarding people who work for me, I know their families, they know mine. I've been to weddings, parties, and ceremonies with folks on my team. I've exchanged cards, I've exchanged gifts. I have long-lasting friendships with some.

When I talk with them in our weekly one-on-one meetings, I always ask how things are going in general, including outside the office. I ask about their spouses and children. I ask what they are doing for the weekend. I want to know about what is important to them.

When I hire someone new, I try to get a sense of how open they want to be with their lives outside of work. Only on a few occasions have I hired folks who aren't interested in talking about their lives, or hearing about mine. In those cases, I respect their desire for privacy.

While I'm an introvert by nature, I try to be as friendly as I can at work. With my managers, I try to get a sense of how much I like and trust them, and then open up about my life outside of work with them. With most of my bosses, I've felt free to be open and honest about almost everything. In just a few cases, I could tell they weren't comfortable or weren't interested, and so didn't share with them.

Only you can tell how much you trust your manager. Only you can sense what you are willing to share, and how much your manager wants to receive. Every manager-employee relationship is different.


This is not really down to it being you and your line manager. It is down to how you two work together and have a personal relationship together.

I have worked in teams where on a Friday night we'd all go out partying and end up on someone's floor (including the boss) and I have worked in other environments where mixing between ranks was explicitly prohibited. In my current job, if I take the team out, it's pretty non-heirarchical, but I'll pay for drinks and food. Aside from that, we pretty much treat things as equals.

I'd suggest a good manager should at least know their team's spouses' and kids' names, and their hobbies. Any more than that is good if you have a close knit team, but could be seen as weird in more conservative organisations.

As for your preconception, in many companies, managers get rated on the performance of their team, so their best interest may well align with yours.

Just try and be personable, honest and open, and take your lead from your manager as to how much sharing is appropriate.


Keep your work and personal life as separate as possible is the safest I have found. I have pictures of my wife and kids on my desk, and they bring me lunch from time to time, but I don't talk about them much.

Firstly there is no need for my colleagues to know about my personal life in a more than cursory fashion.

Secondly, not all my extended family are 'housetrained' and suitable for public consumption.

Thirdly I have no real interest in my workmates histories and private life, and I find it uncomfortable if they push details on me a lot so I keep quiet about mine.

One way of having a positive relationship with your manager is to do good work and NEVER or RARELY have personal issues that impact on your work.

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    @JoeStrazzere it might just be my personality. I didn't always have my own business. I worked my way up and have been in most roles.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Nov 28, 2015 at 13:59

I've had managers who mostly treated their direct-reports as peers, except when they had to actively manage the individual. I've had managers whom I never really got to know personally, but who did a stellar job at protecting the department from administrative nuiscances. I've had managers whose hobbies I've known, or whom I knew grew up helping to run a bakery... and others who were entirely business.

As with any other coworker, this really sets itself over time, as you or they volunteer information about yourselves and decide whether or not to reciprocate.

Don't overthink it. Don't ask prying questions unless you are invited to do so, don't try to rush it, and let the business relationship develop into whatever level of detail both of you find comfortable

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