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My manager at work will frequently ask personal questions that I feel are none of his business as my manager. The questions are of a very personal nature. Asking about my parents, or what I am doing after work. There are three problems with the situation.

  1. He is my friend outside of work. He has made it clear that we are not friends at work, which I prefer, but then he keeps overstepping.
  2. He will ask me a question, and when I tell him to stay out of it, he will keep asking and prying.
  3. These questions are nothing to do with my capacity as an employee. Some of them are things that I would not even reveal as a friend.

I am not talking about the moral implications of keeping secrets in general.

What I want to know is how to communicate to him that he needs to keep out of things that don't concern him without offending him.

  • Where are you located? Where I live, this sounds normal. If you spend 40+ hours a week in an office, some people like to know a bit about their colleagues beyond what they do in the office. – JMac Sep 15 '17 at 9:58
  • South Africa. It's more the nature of the questions. He knows that I am mentally ill, and he asks prying questions about that. I have a messed up family and he asks about that. – KittenWithAWhip Sep 15 '17 at 19:13
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How to communicate to him that he needs to keep out of things that don't concern him?

I would definitely talk to him outside of the workplace. And tell him a few things so he hopefully understands why, while at work, I want our relationship to stay on professional tracks. It will deflect the personal grievance to a professional ground (where it actually belongs).

  1. While at work, I am a paid professional who want to work hard and be rewarded for it.
  2. I don't want other employees to think that I'm favored by a friend. You're my manager, not more, and should be seen just as that by our co-workers (and it makes me feel uncomfortable they could see it differently).
  3. I'm afraid that any raise or reward I would get could be seen by colleagues as unjustified because of our friendship. This could be a barrier to my career.

In some places/countries (i.e. US), company policy can even take this as conflict of interest (see Workplace SE for a lot of info about that: managers, friendship at work and so on...).

Then, explain how you still want to be friends, and be happy to talk to him, but not at the workplace. Even though being friends and colleagues can lead to weird situations, the best way to dodge them is to separate work from home/friends.

Then, depending on his reaction and future behavior, you'll have to adapt...

As someone who has navigated workplaces in different countries and with fellow co-workers from different countries and cultural backgounds, keeping personal doors closed while at work actually never bothered anyone. And many did the same. Be professional before everything else. Your friend will have to understand that. Choose your words accordingly, and the proper time.


Related:
1. workplace.SE - manager and close friend.
2. Forbes - new rules
3. Manager resource - manage a friend
4. Huff. Post - office friendship

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