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Friendship in the Workplace: Some Tips, Part 2

By: Marie Donlon

For one, working together may be done to the exclusion of others in the group, making it difficult for others to comfortably assert themselves or offer creative ideas because they are intimidated by your bond.

Likewise, considering that you have an outside relationship with this person might give your coworkers the impression that you gossip with each other about the workplace, leading to the inevitable conclusion that you are gossiping about them as well, thereby jeopardizing trust among your group members.

If you constantly pair off with the same person or people, you are likely to end up with the same ideas and results as other projects. While in theory this is great if you have otherwise successfully completed projects in the past, but this does not allow consideration for new ideas and could very well be an innovation killer.

While it is nice to work closely on a project with someone you consider a friend, try avoiding it in the future to prevent any of the scenarios above. Make sure instead to pair off with people in the workplace you don’t necessarily consider friends. And, if you don’t have a choice in the matter, make sure to listen to and respect your coworkers equally regardless of what your relationship with them is outside of the office. Listen to each group member’s ideas and not just your friend’s. Alienating others in the workplace is an absolute possibility when you have developed a tight-knit friendship with a coworker.

When Things Go Bad

Sure, having a friend at work gives you a natural ally; someone that gives you the confidence to express your ideas freely without judgment. Knowing that someone is in your corner can give you a sense of well-being and confidence. So what do you do if that dynamic changes and your friendship goes south?

Imagine that your best work friend — the one you confided in, the one that you gossiped with, the one you told all of your career aspirations and dreams to — is no longer your friend.

If you had a time machine, you might travel back in time and change how you conducted the relationship from the start. You might have even been wise enough to avoid topics such as salary, financial history, sexual history, illness, job performance, reviews or any of the other topics experts recommend that you avoid discussing in this particular relationship.

Sadly, there is no such thing as a time machine (if there were, I would have never purchased that pair of Hammer pants in middle school). So what do you do when you and your friend stop being…friends?

First, make sure you keep a professional distance from each other. This means managing to work together despite all of the issues that went into destroying the relationship in the first place. Avoid gossiping about that person (and in general) and using the details of their life against them. Likewise, you should also hope that that person conducts themselves similarly, otherwise you can fully expect a call from Suzie in Acquisitions asking why you called her a “bridge troll.”

The next time someone in the workplace wants to make friends with you, consider taking it slow and be careful about what you reveal.

One final tip: Make sure your company doesn’t have a policy about friendships in the workplace that you may already be in violation of.

Resources

Business News Daily—Friends with Boundaries: Handling Friendships in the Workplace

LiveAbout—Pros and Cons of Becoming Friends With Coworkers

Monster—Workplace friendships: Asset or liability?

The Balance — 5 Ground Rules for Positive Workplace Friendships