My manager is extremely sensitive, the sort who borders on being self-involved. I can honestly say she's been a very good boss professionally, but personally she is driving me crazy. She and I are friendly, but she's pushing for us to be best friends. I enjoy her company, but want to keep it business-friendly; after all, she does my performance review! If I'm not overly animated and happy to see her, she assumes I'm mad at her. She then asks around about whether or not I'm mad at her and what she did to make me mad. If I see people from the office on the weekends, she'll sniff out all the details (which I do not broadcast), and then ask me about it, informing me about how much she can drink or how late she can stay up or how she would have added to the fun. She cried over not being invited to my birthday party. She does this to many other people, not just me. We all feel the same way but don't want to upset her. But on the other hand, doing constant damage control ("Oh, no, Susie isn't mad at you, really") is exhausting. How do I salvage this situation?
The Reformed Boor responds:
From a standpoint of protocol, you could politely decline your bosses' overtures of friendship. If you believe that your boss is genuinely interested in friendship, you might try pointing out that you do not want to create the appearance that you are being obsequious in order to attain "teacher's pet" status in your workplace. Indeed, you may be able to find an opportunity to explain to your boss that you are concerned that your friendship will be misinterpreted by your coworkers, who will become jealous.
As a matter of practicality, of course, to receive the favor of one's boss is a boon. The present boor is inclined to scold you for complaining too much: the situation where you are underliked by your boss is much worse than when you are overliked.
The root problem, though, may be that you have not compartmentalized your work/social life. Although you may not broadcast that you fraternize with other coworkers, it's bound to come out in water cooler conversation from time to time. Thus, you can hardly tell your boss that you want to keep your work and personal life separate.
Your comments mention that you are concerned because your performance review is at stake. Surely this is not the real reason: if you were concerned that your out-of-work behavior would be negatively reflected on your performance review, you would not include your coworkers there either, as comments regarding what "you know who" did at last weekend's party are likely to become office gossip - especially in a workplace such as you have described. On the other hand, a positive image from your out-of-work behavior would not harm your performance review - and could actually be to your professional advantage.
However you choose to proceed, you may want to consider that - from what you have described - your boss just wants to be one of the gals. The fact that she is the boss - an authority figure - is probably the reason that it would be a downer to have her at your parties. Maybe you should consider having less wild gatherings - grow up a little. There's more to life than weekend innebriation.
Consider how rarely Scripture speaks positively about partying - though there is a time and place for recreation. Soon enough you will have more responsibility: consider acting more responsible now in preparation.
May God give us wisdom that we may enjoy the good things He has provided, with thanks and moderation,