Work Friends: Who to Know, Who to Avoid

Having work friends can really make a difference. Maintaining a close-knit bond with coworkers can help you stay engaged, productive and satisfied with your job. In fact, in a recent survey by our company, workers said that aside from salary, they’re most thankful for friendly colleagues. (This topped other factors such as a good benefits program, an easy commute, challenging assignments and a supportive manager.)

But how do you cultivate connections with the right people at work? Following are a few types of colleagues to become close with — and some to keep at a distance:

Best Buds

The Caring Critic — Having an in-office ally who can offer insightful feedback and constructive criticism on your ideas or projects can be invaluable. Getting an honest opinion from someone who has your best interests at heart — and who understands the unique nuances and inner workings of your organization — can help you fine-tune your approach so you can make the biggest impact and best impression possible.

The Handy Helper — Feeling swamped? It’s beneficial to have a trusted and reliable friend in the office to lean on for both support and assistance when you feel overburdened. While lone-wolf workers might be left to fend for themselves during a deadline emergency, accounting professionals who’ve made the effort to build some strong alliances will have no shortage of helping hands to call upon. 

The Cool-Headed Veteran — Forging a friendship with a successful and upbeat veteran is another smart move. In times of crisis or uncertainty, a time-tested colleague “who’s been down this road before” can impart wisdom and a sense of perspective. These types of more tenured workers can help you hone new abilities and maintain a healthy, positive attitude.

Problematic Pals

The Party Pooper — Just as the upbeat attitude of a perennial optimist is contagious, frequently fraternizing with naysayers can influence your feelings about your job, too. Even if they are perfectly pleasant to you, be careful about aligning yourself with incorrigible whiners who constantly complain or gossip. They may not be entirely trustworthy, and being too chummy with negative nellies can lead to guilt by association.

The Talkative Time Sucker — Remember that you’re at work to, well, work. In general, be mindful of how much time you spend socializing. If you’re not careful, you can unwittingly allow chatty work friends to become distractions. Keep the water-cooler banter to a minimum and don’t let lunch hour turn into an all-afternoon gabfest. You can always catch up over coffee before work or grab a bite to eat together at the end of the day.

The Favor Thief — “The only way to have a friend is to be one,” said Ralph Waldo Emerson. It’s an important adage to consider in the workplace. If you’re constantly pitching in for a so-called “friend” who never returns the favor, it’s time to re-evaluate the relationship. Likewise, if a colleague assisted you in your hour of need, it’s imperative that you reciprocate — even if their request for backup comes at an inopportune time.