Having work friends is awesome! However, professional limits are absolutely necessary. Here's how to make friends at work while avoiding drama.
When you spend 40+ hours per week with a group of people it's only natural that friendships will start to form. In most cases it'll be a natural progression, but in some cases it'll be the spark to a whole lot of drama that you did not expect.
Workplace dramas erupt for a variety of reasons and it all boils down to trust. Being “friends” with someone implies explicit trust, but it's just not always that simple in the workplace.
One of my first work friends was a nice guy named Paul*. Paul and I worked at a call centre and sat together. He often helped me with technical issues and a friendship formed. One day Paul asked me to log him in to our computer systems when he was “around the corner” from work. He was going to be late but didn't want his lateness recorded, so he asked me to “just” log him in. I refused because, well, that's time theft and wham - friendship was off. Paul was totally upset that I “let him be late” when I refused to participate in his antics.
What happened with Paul and I was a clash of values.
As individuals, we bring our own sets of beliefs and values with us into the workplace, including our own definitions of friendship. In Paul's case, it was important to Paul that I protect his interests. He believed that as his friend I should display my loyalty without question to him. From my vantage point, him asking me to log him in was a conflict with my personal values.
While you can't always foresee a values clash like the one Paul and I had, you can take steps towards learning how to make friends at work while making sure it's a drama-free friendship.
1. Set limits
This is critical to learning how to make friends at work. Every work friend does not need to be a slumber party, tell-you-my-life's secrets kind of friend. Professional limits are absolutely necessary because like Paul and I, you don't want to go too far only to learn you've crossed a boundary with someone and suddenly they feel compelled to choose between you and the employer. If you choose to have work friends, keep them at a distance. Save your secrets for someone else.
2. Choose wisely
There are so many people you should not be friends with. Here they are in no particular order: your boss, your employee, the clique, or the office “Negative Nancy.” First off, if you befriend your boss or your employee, you most likely are doing yourself a disservice. A distance must be kept in order to effectively manage someone. Managing someone means being a coach and having hard conversations that you can't easily have when you just went to the movies the night before. As for the clique, steer clear. The popular crowd is often the political crowd. These people are normally conniving, fake, and untrustworthy. Think of a clique this way: a clique is exclusive and pulls away from the spirit of a healthy company culture, which is inclusive. Do unto others and be the person who brings people together. As for the Negative Nancy or Negative Ned, avoid at all costs. Negative people spew drama and will bring you into theirs in a blink of an eye. Anyone who complains frequently, talks badly of others, or the company, is one to keep at an arm's distance at all times.
3. Take it Slow
Most of the time when anyone in life comes on too strong to start, they're bad news. Too strong might be extremely friendly, out of their way niceness or serious familiarity. If someone right out of the gate is your “new best friend” — abort! For your own good sense, take all work friendships slowly. People at work are political because most of the population believes that you must play politics to get ahead. Just Google 'office politics work' and you'll see page after page of real advice on how to get ahead by playing games. The people who brush up to you like an old pal on day one (or when they want something) are playing games. Take it slow when learning how to make friends at work. Be mindful of your personal intentions on befriending others but also be vigilant and consider others' intentions, too. Not everyone is looking for a friend. They might just want a promotion.
Work friendships can be a great thing. They can transform a blasé job to a fun, engaging job and increase job satisfaction and productivity. The problem with making friends at work starts with people who don't know where to draw the line or when politics come into play.
Embark upon new friendships with eyes wide open.
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