It’s kind of rare to find a job where you actually like your co-workers. Mostly they might just not be suited to your personality or you find you can’t escape them in a 9-5 job. However, on the occasion that you do end up really liking your co-workers and end up wanting to be friends with them, you can find yourself in a bit of a difficult situation.
Rules for workplace friendships are quite different from rules for normal friendships, especially since women are encouraged to be friendly to everyone. But your co-workers will always be your colleagues first and your friends second, and there will always be lines drawn in that friendship. If anything gets messed up or if things get awkward, you can’t just immediately leave your job. So how do you traverse the complicated web of co-worker friendships?
Don’t Exclude Others
You might be closer to some of your colleagues, but try not to alienate or distance yourself from your other co-workers, especially if it’s to do with a group assignment. It helps you avoid the phenomenon of groupthink (that is, a group might reach the same conclusion without putting much thought into it because they want to agree and not create an upset) and it will prevent anyone from accusing you of having favourites. Make sure you treat all your colleagues as equal in a professional context; don’t give them any reason to complain to your boss.
Try To Avoid Gossip
Yes, we all love a good gossip session, and it’s always been a part of society for as long as we can remember. But gossip with your friends at work about other colleagues can be potentially dangerous and harmful, you never know how the news will get out or get back to the people you were talking about.
It can affect your professional credibility and turn people against you. Remember that people (especially those of seniority) have the potential to make your workplace experience difficult for you. It’s advisable that you don’t gossip at work or about work to your other work friends, but if you must, do it in a restaurant or a bar, where you won’t be overheard by your other colleagues.
This doesn’t mean that you’re going to lay down the rules for friendship to your colleagues, but you should have boundaries in your own mind. Unless you really and truly trust the friends you have made at work, be wary of sharing very private things in case they end up in circulation.
Don’t share things you’d be embarrassed to have your boss hear. Try to chat on lunch breaks and during free time; don’t cut into actual work hours. If any work friendship goes awry, your colleague can easily use your personal information against you. As with everyone, be careful of whom you trust, but with work friendships, be doubly careful, because you could lose your job over a disastrous friendship.
You might think you work in a very casual office, but anywhere that pays you money has a hierarchy. You report to someone, and even if your boss is very nice, they’re still your boss. You need to be mindful of these divisions so that you don’t overstep them; don’t be too familiar with people of too high a seniority, it can create very awkward situations.
Also, if you’re seen as being too friendly with senior staff members, it might suggest to your colleagues that there’s favouritism at work, so you might have to deal with animosity. Be careful when you seek out workplace friendships.
Avoid Too Much Overlap Between Work & Play
Yes, it can be fun to go out for drinks with co-workers or grab a bite together every now and again. However, doing this too frequently can cause you to rush into relationships just for the sake of it, and it can affect your working relationship with your colleagues. If you’ve made some real friends from work, that’s great, but don’t spend all your free time with your colleagues. At work, the most important thing is to do work. Friendship is a benefit, but hardly the main goal.
Workplace friendships are quite tricky, and there’s no real book of rules to follow. Trust your intuition, and always be sensible about the friendships you make at work.