When it comes to workplace relationships, the general advice is to keep your distance.
After all, friendships can be tested by a number of different issues in the workplace. But the people we see every day at work often become our closest friends. It’s no wonder, we spend roughly half of our waking hours with them.
So what’s the secret to balancing work and friendships, especially when things get rocky?
KNOW WHAT COMES FIRST
When you make friends at the office, you need to keep some important perspective: You’re primarily at the company as an employee, not a friend. And remember that some bosses frown on personal relationships in the workplace.
The last thing you want is to risk getting passed up for a promotion or not be taken seriously because you are too much of a social butterfly, chatting with friends rather than working. Or, because you let a friendship get in the way of your responsibilites — for example, if your co-worker makes a serious mistake and you don’t report it.
“Work is work, we’re hired to do a job and as long as that takes priority, friendships can emerge naturally, be very constructive and quite enjoyable,” said Janie Fritz, associate professor of communication and rhetorical studies at Duquesne University.
You have to trust your friends, but you have to be able to trust your work friends more.
Whether you realize it or not, the friends you make at work can have an impact on how your bosses view your performance. If your friend has productivity problems or other issues, you might find yourself under greater scrutiny.
And, if you and your friend have a falling out and it turns out that he or she is the vindictive type, the last thing you want to worry about is someone spreading rumours or creating an awkward situation for you at the office.
It’s also important to be extra vigilant about work friends’ ability to keep secrets — that person you’re confiding in might have an agenda of his or her own. Or maybe they just can’t keep their mouth shut.
ZIP THE LIP
A major issue that tends to come up in workplace relationships, Fritz said, is when people divulge too much about their personal lives.
“We’re human, we like to connect with others, the problem is when we forget there is a public sphere and a private sphere,” she said.
For example, sharing brief stories about your family is fine, but it’s best to save those long talks about your personal problems for social settings like bars or restaurants, not the office.
If you and your friends dislike the same people in the office, keep it to yourselves. If you spread gossip or rumours about others at work, it can quickly cause trouble for you with other co-workers as well as your boss.