Office relationships can get complicated if you’re on unclear ground. It’s important to understand the dos and don’ts of different office relationships in order to navigate them. Below are a few examples of common office relationships and the typical boundaries in each one.


Type of relationship: Professional

The owner of a company has a vested interest in his or her employees, but is likely too busy to develop close relationships to each employee. The relationship between a business owner and employee is likely to be mostly professional. Respect should flow both ways in this relationship, but there should be little joking or familiarity that is common with close friends.

Friends Outside Work

Type of relationship: Personal

This type of office relationship entails coworkers who are also friends outside of work. It’s important to remain professional in the office, but these coworkers also know more intimate details about each other. These friendships can be great motivators at work and result in productive collaboration on projects. Capitalize on this information by discovering how you best work together (do you excel on creative projects? projects where you each have well-defined roles?) and use that knowledge to produce unrivaled work.

Manager/Team Member

Type of relationship: Professional

A manager assigns tasks to his or her team members and coordinates with team members directly to make sure work gets done efficiently and effectively. This relationship is highly professional and typically has clear boundaries, as managers play an important role in determining the salary, reviews and tasks for their team members. Managers impact the work of their direct reports and are responsible for determining the success of their team members.

Managers can make the most of this relationship by relying on their team members to get work done without micromanaging, and team members can take advantage of the relationship by learning from their managers and getting direction from them in order to succeed at work.

Colleagues and Coworkers

Type of relationship: Professional

These office relationships are merely circumstantial, born out of necessity. They have the potential to develop into personal friendships, but the relationship between coworkers is just the result of working for the same organization. Beyond a shared employer, these relationships have little interaction but contain a possibility for more meaningful relationships.

Work Friends

Type of relationship: Personal

Work friends are colleagues who are on friendly terms at the office, but rarely meet outside of the scope of work. These relationships can be motivational and help raise employee satisfaction in the office. Work friends are the people you interact with at work by sitting together at meetings, at your desks, at lunch and at work events. This type of relationship fulfills a social need and provides a support system at work.


Type of relationship: Professional

The relationship between a mentor and mentee is both professional and intimate. This type of relationship serves the mentee professionally and allows the student to get career guidance from a more experienced colleague. A mentor helps his or her students navigate a job and growth in their careers. A mentee keeps the mentor grounded and connected to the organization, whereas a mentor keeps the mentee challenged.

About the Author: Jocelyn Pick