Having friends at work is a delicate dance, but a vital ingredient to a successful work life balance. Humans are pack animals, we thrive in collaborative environments. Employees with a best friend at work tend to be more focused, more passionate, and more loyal to their organizations. Buddies get sick less often, suffer fewer accidents, and have more satisfied customers. Pals even have increased productivity.
Allies on the boardroom battlefield can help you further your career and enjoy your time at work. They can be your partner on a project or your weekly lunch date. Workplace friendships are important, but they must be forged correctly, it is business after all.
Beware of the 5 B’s. When beginning friendships at work, know which topics should be avoided. As a rule of thumb, stay away from the 5 B’s:
1. Better Half: try to avoid talk about your significant other until the friendship is more developed. Don’t lie about having someone special in your life, but hold off on the details of your relationship until later.
2. Booze: it’s no secret that your crazy weekend stories have no place in the office. It’s best to save those stories for friends outside of work.
3. Barack: Politics are a sensitive subject for a lot of people, and can lead to heated arguments quickly.
4. Bucks: your right to discuss your salary with your coworkers is protected by law, but can go wrong very quickly. Refraining from this topic will help avoid feelings of tension and jealousy
5. Beliefs: For many, religion, or lack thereof, is a very personal topic, and it should remain personal.
These rules are eligible to be broken as time goes on and friendships grow deeper, but should still be only discussed outside of the physical office. Feel free to discuss your interests, (appropriate) stories, and passions.
Your peers are sure to break these rules from time-to-time. When they do, it’s best to smile and listen but not engage in the topic of conversation if at all possible – you’ll thank us later!
Facebook Official. Your social media accounts are yours, and yours alone. And you are free to connect with whomever you choose. You should definitely connect with coworkers on LinkedIn, but outlets like Facebook tend to be more personal.
Very Important: Your profile should be squeaky clean, or set on private.
If you are uncomfortable with online coworker friendships, or enjoy posting things about the topics above, you are free to deny or ignore the request. If you DO want to connect but are feeling unsure, let them send the friend request first.
Chatty Cathy, Debbie Downer. Workplace friendships require balance. When you want to chat with your coworkers, make sure it’s an appropriate time, when both of you have a moment. Be wary of sacrificing your productivity, and set up lots of lunch dates. At the same time don’t isolate yourself, it can make you a less desirable teammate in general.
Work that Network. Your colleagues are also professionals. Share skills and knowledge to expand your professional network. Being friendly and likable is a very powerful tool in making connections.
Take it outside. Go to happy hour! Go to the movies or a baseball game! Don’t wait for the higher-ups to schedule a corporate retreat in order to bond with your colleagues and get to know them better. When your friendship becomes comfortable, try scheduling meetups outside of work.
Business is business. Office friendships can produce healthy competition, but can also add a confusing factor to important decisions. It’s important to know when a friendship needs to be set aside to make the right decision.
When in doubt, it’s best to know your boundaries. Check to see if your organization has any friendship policies. Work is a part of life, and life is more fun with friends.