Hanging out off the clock - Metro US

Hanging out off the clock

For co-workers who clock matching overtime hours — the ones who roast their midnight coffee together at the workplace and sacrifice their weekend mornings to a shared grind — the boundaries between co-workers and amigos can disappear.

It’s good and natural that folks who work, collaborate and trod the extra mile together often also hang together, career counselors say. But beware, they say, of the limitations of a work friendship, as the work part has its way of spoiling the friendship.

The danger is acutely present in small, claustrophobic businesses — where chances for advancement are few and coveted — or in sales departments, where the contest for commissions can curdle a mutual trust.

But in any professional environment, workplace relationship expert Courtney Anderson urges employees to be realistic about the friendships they take on.

“I don’t know why people forget the difference between work friends and real friends, but they do,” she says. “To me, it’s simple. If you met these people at work, they’re a work friend.”

Clearing personal space between office buddies can be a job of its own — after all, you work together. A slip-out-of-lunch card like, “I have a lot of work to do,” may fall flat.

Nonetheless, “Escape From Corporate America” author Pamela Skillings suggests you occasionally escape the after-hours getaway — running errands or laps at the gym are inoffensive alternatives. If need be, she offers, invite co-workers who don’t usually come out.

“Open it up to more of a group effort,” she says. “That’s more of a team event, instead of the same two people gossiping every day at lunch.”

Anderson agrees, and adds that work friends on lunch break should keep the conversation upbeat, and minimize any slander aimed at other colleagues.

“Talk about ‘American Idol’ — regular, innocuous stuff,” she advises.

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