Having friends at work is a delicate, yet vital component of a healthy workplace. Humans are considered pack animals. This means that we thrive in collaborative environments and suffer when we feel isolated. This also applies to the workplace.
Research shows that employees with a close friend at work are more focused, passionate, and loyal towards their organization. They get sick less often, suffer fewer workplace accidents, and have more satisfied customers. Having a friend at work even helps boost productivity!
There are many ways in which friends can help you be successful at work. They can answer questions, provide an outlet when you’re stressed, contribute expertise from a different department or division, and more. Most importantly, however, friends make you feel like there’s someone at work who has your back. This can give you the confidence and tools you need to perform at your best.
Workplace friendships are important, but when forging new connections, it’s important to go about it in the right way. It is business after all.
Conversations are the heart of any friendship. However, when connecting with someone new, one has to be weary of polarizing or potentially offensive topics—this is especially true in the workplace.
As a rule of thumb, stay away from the 5 B’s.
- Better Half: Neither complaining nor gushing about a partner will help you create those initial connections. It’s okay to mention a spouse or significant other, but going on and on about them comes across as irritating and unprofessional. Keep any wild or funny dating stories to yourself until you have formed a deeper bond. As a friendship progresses it can become natural to talk about relationships, but at least initially it’s better to stay away from the topic.
- Booze: Crazy party stories have no place in the office. They can color people’s opinion of you, leading to a reputation as irresponsible and unreliable. Nobody wants someone like that on their team.
- Ballots: Politics are a sensitive subject that can quickly lead to heated arguments. Never assume someone shares your political views. You could be surprised at how much political opinions differ even among people in similar situations.
- Bucks: One important thing to note is that your right to discuss your salary with coworkers is protected by law. No employer can prohibit this. However, unless you have a legitimate reason to bring up the topic, it’s better off avoided. Don’t brag about how much you make or complain about how little. Refraining from money talk will help you prevent tension, jealousy, and resentment among the team.
- Beliefs: Religion—or lack thereof—is a very personal topic. It’s better left outside of the workplace at all times. Don’t make comments that could be offensive to someone’s beliefs. Additionally, don’t try to recruit coworkers into your church. There should be no preaching in the office. If someone brings up one of their religious practices or traditions, listen with respect.
As you grow closer to an individual, these topics can become naturally become areas of discussion. However, until you know the foundations of a friendship is present, it’s better to avoid discussing these with coworkers.
Additionally, even with close friends, try to keep these discussions away from cubicles where conversations could easily be overheard. If you have personal topics to talk about, schedule lunch dates or after-work drinks.
While it’s our recommendation to connect with coworkers on LinkedIn, other social media networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest, are your personal posting boards. Never feel like you have to share your personal life with your coworkers. You are free to connect with whomever you choose.
Similarly, your coworkers have the right to keep their private life private. If you send a friend request, but get no reply, it’s better to let it go. Don’t pressure them to accept you or tease them about having something to hide!
Note: People are naturally curious. Coworkers will inevitably search for you on social media, so revise your privacy settings to make sure coworkers can only find what you intend them to find. Remember that many social networks have settings that make you un-searchable.
Chatty Cathy, Debbie Downer
Constant chatting is distracting and annoying to others. It ruins both your productivity and your coworkers’. If you constantly prevent them from getting their work done, others on your team might come to resent or avoid you. As a better practice, strike up conversations only when you see someone taking a break.
On the other end of the spectrum is Debbie Downer. Avoiding all conversation or refusing to participate in team-building events makes you seem unfriendly. Others will assume you have no interest in a friendship and therefore won’t make the effort. In this long run, this practice can be truly isolating.
Work that Network
Many people have expressed a dislike for networking because it feels like brownnosing. It feels unnatural. But office friendships are the most organic way to expand your professional network.
If you show that you are both a hard-working employee and a friendly peer, people will respect you professionally. This can lead to some great job offers and recommendations later down the road.
Don’t be afraid to talk about skills, professional interests, and trending resources. Personal connections can double as professional connections.
Take It Outside
Corporate retreats can be a great bonding experience. However, they only come around sporadically. Don’t wait for executives to plan team-building events and instead take matters into your own hands.
Set up lunch dates! Plan a post-work outing to go see that movie everyone was interested in! Go to happy hour! Invite them to a baseball game!
Socializing outside of office spaces allows relationships to reach new levels.
Note: Even outside of the office, exercise caution when socializing with coworkers. You need to face these people on Monday! Drink responsibly and don’t introduce drugs onto the scene.
Office friendship are healthy and necessary. However, in some rare cases they can cause conflicting loyalties. It’s important to know when to set aside a friendship to make the right decision. Most important, managers, decision-makers, and employees in positions of power should never show favoritism.
Don’t back up a bad idea just because your friend came up with it. Don’t populate your project team with close friends and leave out those with needed skills. And don’t let business meetings become gossip centers.
When it comes to office friendships, they are a necessary and rewarding aspect of workplace life. We spend many of our waking hours at our jobs—so forming those necessary human connections can help alleviate stress and keep us motivated.
Work is a part of life, and life is more fun with friends.