Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What You Should Know About Friendships at Work [Guest Post]

As young professionals, we spend at least 40 hours a week at work which is as much time as we spend with our families at home. We all hope to find a job and co-workers that we love but sometimes we don’t take the opportunity to really get to know the people we work with because we are so busy. Do you know how influential co-workers can be on your attitude and perception of work? I have had multiple jobs since college and the jobs I loved the most were when I had a lot of friends around. The jobs that I couldn’t wait to leave were those jobs where I felt like no one liked me and I was a complete outsider.

So what should you do at work in order to maintain your professionalism, climb the corporate ladder and make some great friends for life?
  1. Network: Do whatever you can do to get to know as many people as possible where you work. This will not only help you get questions answered but it will also allow you to learn about different areas of the company. Maybe someday you will want to move into the marketing department. You will be very glad that you have a friend in marketing that you can ask for help.
  2. Ask questions: Ask your co-workers about their weekends and how their family and children are doing. It will make your working relationship so much better when you know personal things about each other. Make sure that you be yourself and that you are genuine.
  3. Say yes: Always go to lunches and happy hours if you have the opportunity. These events are a great way to get to know the personalities of the people you work with. You can talk and laugh about things in a relaxed atmosphere and socialize about things you may not feel comfortable talking about in the office.
  4. Watch out: Be very careful not to take part in gossip and whatever you do, don’t take sides. Make sure you set boundaries, especially in the beginning. Keep some distance when it comes to partying and sharing personal things about you. No one needs to know that illegal thing you did in high school because stories will quickly go around the office. Maintain your professionalism and keep a 1-2 drink limit.
  5. Don’t bug: Get to know how your co-workers work and when they enjoy socializing. When someone is working hard and right in the middle of an important deliverable, it’s probably not the best time to ask them how their weekend was. Be vigilant about where you are socializing and who else can hear. Don’t bug others who don’t want to hear about your amazing date last night and don’t get a reputation for socializing all the time.
I hope you can see how work can be much better if you know and LIKE your co-workers. Now, go make some great work friends!

Classy Career Girl is a consultant by day and a MBA student by night. She blogs about her journey through business school while working full time and provides advice on how to be classy as you climb the corporate ladder. You can read more about her journey on her website


  1. These are all great points. I've been really lucky to have maintained really good relationships with a lot of my former coworkers--not just friendly professional relationships, but actual friendships. One piece of advice I'd add is to look for commonalities, especially if you seem at first to be very different from your coworkers. A shared interest in something--a sport, movies, a TV show, whatever--makes it much easier to build a rapport.

  2. Any ideas on how to navigate the changes in co-worker friendships when you move into a supervisory role? "Friend" tends to create the connotation that I will protect you from reprimands when you err badly or even from termination, which I just can't do. I had to terminate an employee and he literally thought that because we were friends that he was safe. It's really difficult to retain friendships when you are someone's boss. Do you just stop trying to have those friendships? I work in an office of only 20 people, so the politics are MESSY to say the least; is it best to only have friendships with those on the same level or higher than you? I'd love to hear Angeline & Classy Career Girls thoughts.

  3. Wonderful tips, and perfect timing too since after 10 years I'm changing jobs and have been thinking about how to get to know new collegues better and make some friends. Great post, thanks!

  4. "Say yes: Always go to lunches and happy hours if you have the opportunity." oh i totally agree with this point. i think a lot of people think "i have actual friends; i don't want to hang out with work people after work" but they fail to realize that getting along with your coworkers can really make your work life easier.

  5. @ grace - I agree! Finding just one thing you have in common can open up a friendship.

    @ rachel - that is a tough situation. I don't think it's fair or reasonable for a friend to expect any protection at work just because you are friends. I think most people realize that work friendships shouldn't come with any special treatment. Just my two cents.

    @ anonymous - Glad it could help! Classy Career Girl has more great tips on her blog.

    @ stephanie - Definitely. There are so many little things we can do to be friendly with those around us (a "how are you" or "let's grab lunch") can go a long way in creating nice working relationships later.

    @ citizen rosebud - thanks! have some more lined up, too, that I'm excited about.

  6. Very good advice! Work relationships are a difficult thing to navigate, but you're so right that they are important. Good post!

    - Meredith

  7. Great advice! Here's some of my own, take it or leave it!
    -Once you are friends, keep office socializing to a minimum. How much that would be varies by corporate culture, but a whole lot of chit chat beyond lunch or breaks can be distracting to co-workers.
    -Avoid being part of a clique.
    -Be aware that if you or a friend moves into a supervisory position (or just upward in general) you relationship may have to change.
    -It is lonely at the top...people in management roles face special challenges in work friendships, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be invited to join happy hour or lunch from time to time.

  8. Angeline- Thanks again for this wonderful opportunity to guest post on your blog.

    Rachel-That is a great question and definitely makes me want to expand on an answer for a future post. I agree with Angeline that just because someone is a friend doesn't mean that they should have special treatment. I do think it is important for bosses to be friends with those that they manage but there definitely is a boundary. I recommend still making quality time to stay friends outside of the office but make sure to keep the relationship professional when you are in the office.

  9. @ meredith- Isn't Classy Career Girl great?

    @ martha - Great tips to add! Being friends with supervisors is definitely a fine line to walk from both sides.

    @ classy career girl - thanks again for writing this post! I just love it!

  10. Thank you, ladies, for your input. I look forward to Classy Career Girl's expanded post on supervisor/staff friendships.


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