Many people make a distinction between “work friends” and “real friends.” This is certainly understandable, and a good way to make sure that your work doesn’t suffer because of office politics. However, how much should you share with your work friends? Is it professional to mix “work friends” with “real friends”? And can “work friends” ever become “real friends”? Let’s look at some guidelines for dealing with friends in the workplace; real or otherwise.
Sharing personal details and events with coworkers can be tricky, and can be unfortunate ammunition for office politics. As a general rule, avoid sharing anything that you wouldn’t want everyone in the office to know about. For example, talking about my niece isn’t exactly professional talk. However, I don’t care if the whole office knows that she was adorable in her Halloween costume. Plus, it can’t really be used as ammunition in dirty office politics.
Inviting coworkers to personal events should be carefully considered as well. When you look back at your wedding photos in 10 years, do you want to see that guy who fixes the copier in your pictures? Also, keep in mind that it may be difficult for you to fully relax with coworkers at your event. There is the possibility that anything you do at a personal event could become part of office politics later if coworkers attend. Feel like griping about your boss at your bachelor/bachelorette party? Better keep it a little more professional if you have a bunch of coworkers in tow.
Although it may be safer to assume the worst of your coworkers, it is definitely possible to become genuinely close with them. I made a few good friends— the kind of friends I would call in an emergency— after working at my last job for four years. So, how do you know when a “work friend” has the makings of a “real friend”? Alexandra Levit suggests asking yourself a few questions:
- If your friend left the company, would you still be in contact with him/her in a year?
- If your friend received a promotion that you really wanted, would you be genuinely happy for him/her?
- If you ran into your friend in the grocery store, could you talk for 10 minutes without mentioning work, or office politics?
If the answer to any of these is “yes,” then you might have a real friend on your hands. However, it is important to maintain a good professional relationship at the office. Working with “real” friends can have its challenges as well!
Is there a difference between “work” friends, and “real” friends? Where do you draw the line on what to share in a professional situation and stay out of office politics? Leave a comment below, or send me a tweet: @ithinkther4iamb #officepolitics
IMAGE: Courtesy of Flickr by Mr.Boombust