Can Co-Workers Be Real Friends? Things to Keep in Mind While Being Social on The Job

Let’s face it – for most of us, we spend more time at work (and doing work related things) than we do with our significant others, families and the homies. Out of a 120-hour business week, 40 – 60 of those hours are spent with your team at work.

Some industries and roles make it easy for the personal and professional divide, but others can create room for the mingling thereof. Jobs that promote creativity and collaboration can easily uncover commonalities among a team. Perhaps he or she listens to the same music as you, or has the same hobbies. Naturally, we connect to those who share these similarities and build a sense of comradery with them.

There’s nothing wrong with that.

There are many work-based relationships that I’ve heard of that have grown into long-time friendships, relationships or even marriage; but I’ve also heard about many instances of work relationships that started off fun and exciting but turned into chaos and discomfort.

Whether it was a co-worker bringing up something you told them in confidence back up at the team happy hour, or a Facebook debate on politics that got heated– it can often be challenging figuring out how to share your personal life with your co-workers (and if it’s even worth it).

Again, “work-friend” or “friend-friend”?

Here are some tips that can help you with the distinction:

1. Always listen more than you speak. One cannot stress the importance of keen listening when in the workplace. Many people find one-on-one time with their manager to be their opportunity to demonstrate their skills or savvy, and can end up talking more than they pay attention to their environment. How do you distinguish who’s the gossiper, and who’s the “forever victim”? There’s a lot you can learn about someone from how others talk about them, and how they talk about others. Taking note of the “gossipers” is a dead giveaway and first level of sorting through the masses.

2. Have a firm boundary with where you stand with social media access. Make up your mind. You either do, or don’t, add co-workers on social media. At this stage in our lives, we should know that anything can be accessed on social media by anyone, but even if your page is private, one co-worker having access to your social media is practically all co-workers having your social media. There’s no right or wrong with either decision, but if you do, understand very clearly the then increased need to be conscious of your brand, always. There’s no “it was just a joke” or “I don’t really feel that way” allowed. Whatever you show or say will immediately be tied to your persona as a professional.  Also note the slippery slope – how awkward would it be to block someone from work because of some discomfort and then have to see them every day thereafter?

3. Don’t spit where you eat. Please understand that at the end of the day, anything can happen. The person on your team one year can be your competitor the next, or your direct report the year after. Treat all people in your place of work with respect, and be cautious with how much you share about yourself…the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Work friendships are a privilege, not a right. The only thing you owe your co-workers is the best professional you – a competent, on-time, and reliable you.  For those that are lucky to share the more intimate parts, like how your relationship is going, your fitness goals, or even your hardships and challenges, tend to those with the utmost awareness always.

By: Christine Pembroke

(@ChrissyySunday)