When to make friends at work (and when not to)
If you’re like most North Americans in the work force, your job takes up the majority of your day. We spend a lot of time with our colleagues. The tendency to make friends at work is strong, and it is only natural that our work and social lives blend. We are social animals after all. But is it a good idea?
When it comes to most jobs, especially retail and restaurant jobs, all signs point to yes — it’s a great idea to be friends with coworkers. Here are a few reasons why:
- You’ll look forward to coming to work every day. In fact, work friendships that excite and energize you will boost your overall performance — something both customers and managers will notice and appreciate.
- You’ll expand your network and unlock opportunities to move up. Your friends might have insights about your field of interest, and connections that could help you advance in your career. Friends are valuable resources, so having a vast network of people that like you is always in your best interest.
- Your friends can lookout for you. They can give you tips and tricks to sell more or provide better service in general. A friendly colleague can also back you up if there’s a conflict with a customer or in case of emergencies.
- Life is simply better when you have friends around you. You might have lots of friends outside of your job, but don’t turn down the possibility of getting to know new people –you might surprise yourself and unexpectedly click with someone. Even if you prefer being alone and keep your circle very small, it’s healthy to have friends in your life.
There are countless reasons why a support system made up of good people is beneficial to you. Essentially, making friends at work won’t only help you feel more energized and productive, it’s pretty much crucial for your own mental health!
At work (and in life) it’s best to be cautious of close friendships that could result in a conflict of interest. Here are a few examples of situations where relationships can potentially cause problems:
- Becoming besties with your boss: Dilemmas can arise if you become too close with your superior (or your employees if you are the manager). The boss in question can become conflicted about your schedule, your pay, and how s/he sees you compared to other employees. At the end of the day, friendships are based on equality, and varying degrees of power and responsibility can complicate the relationship. Stick to being friend-ly at first, knowing that you might end up becoming best friends at a more appropriate time in the future.
- Dating a colleague or a boss: Imagine how you would feel if your significant other was fired, or if s/he was promoted and you weren’t. Imagine fighting outside of work, only to have to work closely together the next day. Of course, two responsible adults can separate work and personal problems, but this can be difficult. Before you start a workplace romance, be aware of possible conflicts.
- Getting too close too fast: Observe certain boundaries when you meet your colleagues for the first time. Avoid awkwardness or a bad start by asking too many personal questions or oversharing — just be friendly and positive without divulging everything about yourself. While you’ll want to make friends, it’s impossible to know if another person’s feelings or intentions align with yours.
The conclusion: It’s always a good time to make new friends, whether it’s in or out of the workplace, however approach every new person with a hint of open-minded skepticism. Give people the benefit of the doubt, but be mindful of the possible positive (and occasionally negative) aspects of getting close with colleagues.