The benefits of work friendships are pretty clear — a sense of belonging, a positive corporate culture, improved communication and commitment to the team — but that doesn’t mean that having friends at work is totally without risk. Here’s how things can go wrong, and what to do to make them right.
(Photo Credit: Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickr)
1. Failing to draw boundaries.
“You need not put Saran Wrap around your cube, but you must find a way not to violate the first tenet of professionalism: maintaining adequate boundaries,” writes at Andrea Bonior, Ph.D. at Psychology Today. “It might have seemed like a good idea at the time to let your team members know about your blog, or confide to that intern about that you went through a bit of a hallucinogenic phase in high school. Tread carefully. Whether it’s too loud of personal phone calls or having a bright-pink email signature listing every last one of your favorite movie quotes, it can be quite tempting to reveal too much — greatly damaging your professional identity in the process.”
Solution: Remember that the office is a place of business, even if you’re lucky enough to like most of the people in it. Don’t tell anyone anything you wouldn’t put on a sign and hang over your desk.
2. Wasting time.
Even if your team has some time on their hands, chances are, other folks in the office have plenty to keep them occupied. Add in the fact that many companies work in open offices or paper-thin cubicles, and you can see that treating the workplace like the neighborhood bar or coffee shop can get pretty annoying for the people who have to overhear your conversations.
Solution: Be considerate. If you need (or want) to catch up with a co-worker, book a conference room or head to the cafeteria — anywhere you won’t disturb colleagues who need peace and quiet.
3. Spoiling your working relationships.
Friendships change over time. Outside of work, that can be fine; inside the office, it can negatively affect your professional progress.
Solution: Don’t engage in petty disputes with co-workers. Be the person who rises above drama. Most of all, work hard to give yourself and others space to let small frustrations burn off before they become big interpersonal problems.
Done right, office friendships can teach you how to be a better friend to people you meet outside of work, as well as making your days at the office more pleasant and productive.
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