Can Coworkers Be Your Friends? 3 Rules For Navigating In-Office Friendships

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Jan. 1 2024, Published 8:10 a.m. ET

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While the adage, “Your coworkers are not your friends,” is familiar, the reality of spending significant time collaborating within an office challenges the notion. Through shared projects, team building, and the intricacies of professional life, it’s not uncommon to become close with your colleagues.

Can you form genuine, lasting friendships with a member of your team? This question has birthed an eye-opening debate. Per a November 2023 Glassdoor survey, 51% of employees answered, “Yes.” In fact, more than half of those polled revealed they have a best friend at work.

In this article, we tackle the nuances of maintaining appropriate workplace relationships, whether with a “work spouse” or direct report, without blurring the lines. Keep reading for tips on how to navigate friendships with coworkers.

Set Boundaries

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If you discover that you’re forming a genuine connection with a direct report and foresee a potential friendship, work to get ahead of any unforeseen issues. Drawing on the expertise of Brandon Smith, a renowned career coach and therapist known as “The Workplace Therapist,” consider employing the following talk-off with the context of conducting a performance review.

“Sit down with them and say, ‘Our friendship is important to me, but during performance review time, I’m going to treat it objectively. If it was up to me, I would give you all of the money, but it wouldn’t look good,'” Smith told CNBC.

The goal is to avoid unnecessary tension regarding year-end bonuses, promotions, and similar matters.

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Keep It Professional

When socializing outside of work, embracing inclusivity can elevate your professional relationships. Consider expanding your social engagements beyond exclusive circles and opt for inclusive activities, such as inviting your coworkers to happy hour. Remember, broadening your network can be valuable. That said, don’t hesitate to suggest involving peers from different departments

A helpful guideline is to ask yourself whether your plans might place you in a precarious situation by accident. While social events are left open to perception, adopting an “all-aboard” approach reduces the likelihood of colleagues reading into hidden meanings and fosters an open and collaborative atmosphere.

Mind Your Manners

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Venting is normal and acceptable in the comfort of your home with family and/or friends. However, when speaking of management with your peers, it’s paramount to maintain a positive discussion. Avoid trash-talking your boss with colleagues. This behavior can harm your career and create a tense workplace atmosphere. Further, be cautious about whom you confide in. After all, disloyal colleagues may exploit the situation for personal gain. Remember, momentary frustrations aren’t worth jeopardizing your career and workplace productivity. Adopt the same mindset with gossiping at work to avoid any complications.

Ultimately, learning how to navigate friendships with coworkers at work hinges on setting clear expectations. By discussing the dynamics of the budding relationship, you can embrace uncomfortable conversations, minimize ambiguity, and individuals can stay clear of unwanted drama. Not only does this proactive approach contribute to fostering a collaborative environment, but it ensures that all parties involved are heard.

The author’s content and opinions have not been pre-reviewed, approved or endorsed by Discover.

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By: Truth Hawkins

Truth Hawkins, a seasoned wordsmith with over a decade of experience spanning entertainment, culture, and lifestyle news, navigates the dynamic landscapes of pop culture, lifestyle, and music. More than a reporter, Truth is a dedicated storyteller, unearthing narratives that deeply resonate with readers and invites them to engage in meaningful conversations.

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