If you spend 40 hours a week, 50+ weeks a year with the same group of people, you’re bound to form bonds. For some, work is the only time they get to socialize with people outside of their family. This poses an important question: is it OK to make friends at work? Let’s take a moment to decide the best path for your professional image.
Benefits of Making Friends at Work
Aside from convenience, there are benefits to making friends in the workplace. If you enjoy the people you work with, you’re more likely to enjoy work as a whole. A pleasant environment is a productive environment, so the whole company benefits from your positivity. Having work friends also gives you people to help cover you in case of an emergency. It’s a classic “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” situation.
Downsides of Making Friends at Work
Despite the benefits of making friends at work, there are some disadvantages to this setup. If one of you gets promoted, your past friendship may get in the way of your professional relationship. It may be hard for the lower-level employee to respect the other person’s newfound authority. Coworkers may accuse one of you of favoritism, which could create tension in the workplace.
Problems in your friendship may also bleed into your work life. For instance, let’s say you and your friend have a big fight over the weekend. Monday morning, you’re still furious at one another. You may not be able to put aside those feelings at work, which could lead to a series of repercussions.
Finding a Work-Life Balance That Fits Your Needs
There is no right or wrong answer. If you click well with someone from work, you may become good friends. If you don’t have work friends, you can still be pleasant with your coworkers to create a positive environment. Here are some tips to help you find a work/life balance, regardless of your situation:
- Avoid conversations about work outside of work. This can quickly turn into work gossip, which will come back to hurt you later on. Keeping a separate work life and personal life will also keep your stress levels low because you are not constantly thinking of work after hours. Form friendships that don’t rely on work similarities.
- Know when to say no. If your coworkers want to have a night out once a month, you might be able to fit that in your schedule. If they are asking you to come out every weekend, all weekend, that may cut into your family time. Set boundaries for your friendships so you can balance all aspects of your life.
- Do not put yourself at risk to help others. This includes lying for a friend at work. If they ask you to cover a shift, you can do whatever fits your schedule. If they ask you to do something that will put your livelihood at jeopardy, they aren’t much of a friend anyway.
- Do not talk about pay. Never discuss how much you make with a coworker, and never ask them how much they make. This can create tension and jealousy, and it’s an unprofessional act.
- Do not talk about your relationship at work. Once again, this is unprofessional. It may also create issues for you if your supervisor finds out.
- Be careful who you befriend. People tend to present the best versions of themselves at work, so you may not like some of your coworkers in the off-hours. Avoid spending time with people you cannot trust or do not have anything in common with.
- Be supportive and get support in return. If you are going to be friends with a coworker, support their professional endeavors. If they get a promotion, congratulate them on that. In return, you should also be friends with people who support your career goals. If you feel a competitive tension with someone, that probably isn’t the best person to befriend.