American Workers and Bosses Check Their Friendship at the Door, Study Says

Sixty-six percent of employees don’t desire a closer relationship with their boss.

October 15, 2015 // // ATLANTA - As National Boss’s Day approaches, office leaders will be happy to know that nearly three-fourths (74 percent) of their employees consider their relationship with their boss to be excellent or good. However, for many employees, that relationship ideally takes nights, weekends and holidays off.

According to national staffing company Spherion’s “WorkSphere” survey, American workers who have a boss are split on whether they consider him or her a friend - 49 percent say yes, while 51 percent say no. The survey was conducted online by Harris Poll in October among more than 2,019 U.S. adults, including 939 who are employed full/part-time and have a boss.

And, while 82 percent of employees who have a boss report socializing with him or her during work hours or at work-related events, they are not on a bestie-basis just yet. In fact, fewer than half of these workers (46 percent) ever hang out with their boss outside of the office, and 41 percent consider their relationship exclusively professional.

Despite not desiring a closer friendship with their boss, employees do see possible upsides from maintaining a more personal relationship. Three in five workers (60 percent) believe to a great or fair amount that employees who are friends with their boss receive special treatment in the workplace compared to those who choose to keep greater distance. In particular, employees believe that bosses offer close colleagues a range of benefits, including more frequent personal interaction or attention (56 percent) and schedule flexibility (52 percent), among others, than they offer their coworkers.

“Top-down friendships really come down to balance,” said Sandy Mazur, Spherion Division President. “Given the focus on engagement and retention in the workplace, bosses should help establish a middle ground where employees feel they can approach them to discuss both personal and workplace matters, but where there also are clear boundaries so that time spent at work is devoted primarily to professional conversations and tasks.”

While most employees with a boss say they have an excellent or good relationship, men are more likely than women to consider their boss a friend (53 percent and 45 percent, respectively). In addition, although men (83 percent) and women (81 percent) almost are equally likely to socialize with their boss during work hours, men are more likely to continue this socialization outside the office (50 percent versus 43 percent, respectively).

The WorkSphere survey found several other noteworthy trends highlighting how employees balance professional and personal interaction with their boss, including:

Social Media Connections

  • Among all employees with a boss, nearly one in five (18 percent) are connected with him or her on their personal social media channels; this total nearly doubles (31 percent) for employees who report being friends with their boss.
  • Younger workers are more likely to connect with their boss on social media than older workers; nearly twice as many workers ages 18-44 (23 percent) engage with their bosses in this manner than workers ages 45-54 (12 percent).

Trust and Transparency

  • Eighty percent of employees feel comfortable being honest with their boss about critical workplace issues.
  • A similar percentage of workers (79 percent) feel their boss is fully honest with them on the same subjects.

The Age Factor

  • Workers between the ages of 18 and 34 (55 percent) are more likely than those who are 35-44 (45 percent) or 45-54 (41 percent) to consider their boss a friend.
  • Nearly one in five (18 percent) men between the ages of 18 and 34 describe their relationship with their boss as equally professional and personal, compared with 12 percent of women in this age group.
  • More than half (52 percent) of 18-34 year olds report ever socializing with their boss outside of work, compared to 43 percent of those who are between 45 and 54. Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of Spherion from October 1-5, 2015 among 2,019 adults ages 18 and older, 939 of which are employed full or part time and have a boss. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Jamie Cwalinski at 404-877-5534.

About Spherion

Spherion Staffing Services is a leading recruiting and staffing provider that specializes in placing administrative, clerical, customer service and light industrial candidates into temporary and fulltime opportunities. As an industry pioneer for more than 68 years, Spherion has sourced, screened and placed millions of individuals in virtually every industry through a network of offices across the U.S. To help clients meet their workforce goals, Spherion offers companies a unique combination of personalized customer service and in-depth knowledge and expertise of the communities where Spherion offices are located. Each local office is individually owned and operated by a team of staffing specialists who are well-known and acquainted with the community and supported by a strong network of talent. To learn more, visit Also, as part of one of the fastest-growing industries, Spherion is actively expanding into new territories, with more than 75 franchise markets available. To inquire, visit

SOURCE Spherion

Media Contacts:

Jamie Cwalinski

Gail Ferro


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Spherion Staffing Services is a leading recruiting and staffing provider that specializes in placing administrative, clerical, customer service and light industrial candidates into temporary and full-time opportunities.


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