Thursday, April 22, 2010

Let's get personal

There are 168 hours in a week, 40 of which are spent in the office for a typical 8-5er.  That's a whopping 23.8%, or almost as much time as you spend sleeping (if you sleep an average of 7 hours per night, like me).  Add in lunch, and that's 45 hours per week (26.7%).

With this many hours spent in or around the workplace each week, it's only natural that many folks develop deep and lasting friendships with their coworkers.  However, it can be a fine line to walk.  Who do you associate with and who might you avoid? How much do you share and with whom?  Today's post is a quick overview of making friends at work, and the issues that come with it.

We'll break this down into familiar territory (for this j-school grad, at least): the good ol' five Ws and an H.
  • Who: It's common for employees to make quick friends of those that they work with often (or teammates), those around their age group, or those with similar interest.  Often proximity plays a factor as well.  If Jane's cube is right outside the breakroom, she probably gets lots of hellos, each of which is another opportunity to connect and create a friendship.  You don't have to be best buddies with everyone at work, or even those on your team.  Let friendships build naturally.
  • What: Friendship, and sometimes even romance (not a topic for today).  These platonic relationships can range from lunch buddies to confidants to neighbors to outside-of-work friendships that may extend even beyond your mutual employment.  It goes without saying (or I guess not) that your confidants should be chosen very carefully.  Workplace gossip is a major pit that you want to avoid.
  • Where: At or around the office.  If you repeatedly run into the same coworker at your favorite lunch spot, you will probably say hi and walk back together.  Connections can also occur anywhere if you happen to live near your coworkers.  You may even have mutual friends already.  But be aware of how others may perceive your friendships when dealing with coworkers of the opposite sex: rumors need only one speculator to start and is risky in the work environment.  You and Joe may just both happen to love jazz, but leaving alone together after work on Friday to check out a new artist may raise some eyebrows.
  • When: Work and lunch hours, and sometimes other hours as well.  Since your common ground is obviously the office, that will naturally be where your conversations happen.  Be aware of the time you spend chit chatting--while most employers won't bat an eyelash at a couple of minutes of chat time, don't make it a habit or stop at too many cubicles.  If you have that much to talk about, do it over lunch or coffee when you're not on the clock.
  • Why: Making friends at work makes the office a more pleasant place to be, and who wouldn't want that?  Building platonic relationships with folks in different departments as you can also make future joint projects smoother as you already have a rapport (although your personal friendships should not be mixed with the work at hand...see more on separating conflict and relationships here).  The office is also a great place to meet people with similar interests, so you may find yourself a new yoga or carpool buddy.
  • How: Office friendships start like many others: say "Hi!"  You may have already been formally introduced, but if not, you have probably seen each other around.  Cut the awkwardness and just ask "You work at Company ABC, too, right?  What department are you in?"  Once you have a grasp on who the other individual is (within the company at least), proceed as you would with other new friends.  Ask about their interests, express common sentiments, and maybe chat them up next time as well.

You can be friends with your coworkers, and it's easier than you may think.  You never know what you might find.

Do you make friends with your coworkers?  Are they different than making friends outside of the workplace for you? How?


  1. not quite on topic here, but is this your and your hubby's bike? it should be!

  2. Haha, no, it's a Flickr photo (see credit at bottom of post). Looks like it would work, thought, right (since K. is wayyy taller)? Altho if we ever shared a bike I don't think I would need pedals. Maybe we should just get a child's seat added to his.

  3. lol, that was me and rip in vancouver on a tandem bike. i sat in back and put my feet up on the bar. :)

  4. i've been lucky enough to make real, lasting friendships at my workplaces. i think its truly a blessing meeting all these God-sent people. but man, it definitely isn't easy, cuz in the workplace you really realize a little more just how broad and wide the range is for the different types of people there are in the world.

  5. Yeah, definitely. I haven't been at a job this long ever before, and usually I leave because I move hundreds of miles away, so work friendships are newer territory for me.

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