It’s nice to have a friend in the office, isn’t it? Somebody to eat lunch with, chat with while you’re both grabbing a cup of coffee in the break room, and vent to when everything at work seems to be falling apart.
You often spend more time with your colleagues than you do with anybody else. So, it’s really only natural that you’ll start to form close bonds with the people you see each and every weekday.
However, there’s no denying that office friendships can be somewhat tricky to navigate. It involves mixing your personal and your professional lives, which can result in quite a bit of gray area.
Today’s “Dear Kat” question seeks clarification on that relatable issue:
Dear Kat, I enjoy forming friendships with my co-workers—it’s nice to have an ally in the office! However, I often feel like I’m walking a fine line. Is this person my colleague first and my friend second, or the other way around? Do you have any tips for managing friendships with the people you work with?
First of all, know that I definitely think it’s possible to have healthy, happy, and positive friendships with your co-workers. However—much like any other friendship, really—it’s going to involve some careful thought and consideration to help you avoid any sticky situations.
Here are five key tips that I think are helpful for successfully navigating office friendships.
1. Cut Out the Work Gossip
Whether you’re in the office or spending time together outside of normal working hours, you and your work friends need to make an effort to squash any and all work gossip you might be tempted to share.
Yes, you consider this person your friend. But, it’s important for you to remember that he or she is also your co-worker. And, as you already know, participating in snarky whisper sessions about the other people you work with never ends well for anybody.
2. Don’t Confuse Professional With Personal
No matter how strong your friendship, it’s important that you make your best effort not to cross too many lines between professional and personal.
While you can be friendly in the office, you still need to keep things strictly professional. That means no playing favorites or letting your friendship or regular chats cut into your working time and your responsibilities.
It’s great that you’ve formed such a great relationship with a co-worker. However, work is still work—not yet another social gathering for you and your close friend. So, stay productive and focused in the office, and save the other stuff for after normal working hours.
3. Be Inclusive
Your goal in forging an office friendship likely wasn’t to make your other colleagues feel left out. But, that can happen all too easily when you and another co-worker become close.
This is why it’s important that you make your best effort to be inclusive. Go ahead and ask a few other colleagues to join you both for lunch—rather than the two of you just leaving in a hurry. If you’re heading out for a few drinks after work, see if anybody else is interested in coming along.
Doing so will ensure that you avoid becoming the central topic of any office gossip. Plus, isn’t having great relationships with all of your co-workers better than having a friendship with just one of them?
4. Consider Hierarchy
Office friendships can always be a little difficult to navigate. But, they become even more challenging when you end up mixing ranks.
Think about it—being friends with an equal typically doesn’t raise any red flags. However, getting really close with your boss? That’s usually enough to set off some alarms with your other co-workers. You don’t want to be accused of gaining favor or special treatment, whether that’s a justifiable accusation or not.
So, make sure that you’re conscious of hierarchy when forming friendships in the office. That’s not to say that you simply can’t be friends with anybody that’s not on the same level as you—you’ll just need to be extra careful when doing so.
5. Be Conscious of Social Media
Social media has introduced a whole new complex element into all friendships—including the ones you form in the office. Needless to say, this is something you’ll want to be conscious of, whether you’re friends with your other colleagues on social media or not.
Consider this your golden rule: If you wouldn’t want your boss or your other co-workers to see what you’re posting, then it probably shouldn’t be shared on your social media accounts. The more caution you can exercise in that space, the better.
Forming friendships with the people you work with can undoubtedly make your time in the office that much more enjoyable. However, when mixing your professional and personal lives, you’ll want to tread carefully.
Remember these five key tips, and you’re sure to build office friendships that are productive and beneficial—rather than the focus of all of that pesky office gossip.