In other words, we go into our jobs with a set of expectations based on our early, adolescent, and adult experiences, he says. “How well does [your] family communicate? How do people express affection? How do people apologise? Is the relationship conditional or unconditional?” Passarelli asks. These same questions play out at work.
The closer you are, the harder it can be
And, while it might seem that being closer to your boss would make for better communication, it can also make for much more loaded relationships, says Passarelli. “On paper, the more distant the relationship is, the more difficult [you would think] it would be. But, really, the closer we are, the more vulnerable we are.”
Because of that increased vulnerability, we start to interpret things differently. “If you have a close relationship with someone, disappointment is seen more like betrayal,” says Passarelli. “You’re going to see your disagreements as rejection. You’re not going to see it as, ‘I know you have to do what you have to do career-wise.’”
If you work in a company where professional relationships and friendships go hand-in hand, switching from friend to employee can be nearly impossible, adding yet another layer of stress and uncertainty, explains New York-based organisational consultant Beth Fisher-Yoshida.
“It may feel like code switching,” says Fisher-Yoshida. “First, you are my friend, and now you are coming down on me, so cold and distant.”