Forming friendships at work can make any job more satisfying and productive. In fact, nearly one-fourth of office professionals who participated in an OfficeTeam survey on the topic found that having friendships at work superseded most job benefits, after their paycheck.
And those on-the-job relationships can be enduring, too. A State of Friendship study conducted by Lifeboat, an organization that conducts academic research about friendships, revealed that 36 percent of surveyed adults met at least one of their closest friends at work.
But in addition to the benefits, there are potential pitfalls to growing too close with work friends. Examples include close-knit relationships that can be perceived as gossipy or exclusionary, and outside disagreements that seep into the workplace.
Keep these five tips in mind to help navigate your workplace friendships.
1. Establish clear boundaries
One of the cornerstones of any friendship is the ability to confide personal information and build trust. It's important to establish agreements with work friends about keeping this personal information private and outside of the workplace. Avoid getting into deep discussions about personal matters at the office, and keep conversations professional. This will help compartmentalize your relationships with colleagues during the day and as confidantes after work hours.
2. Be inclusive
This isn't high school, so don't behave like a teenager. Be collegial with everyone on your team. Not only will this help avoid resentment, it will also work toward quashing any suspicions that you and your friend are gossiping about your coworkers behind their backs.
3. Keep your actions and discussions professional
The office is no place for juvenile shenanigans. It's okay to share a chuckle with work friends once in a while, but keep your actions and conversations suitable for the workplace. Refrain from using nicknames or discussing anything you did after work that might embarrass you or your coworkers.
4. Don't give preferential treatment
If you've been promoted and find yourself managing your friend, treat the person as you would anyone else. Don't single him or her out from the rest of the team with a lighter or heavier workload. Grant the same level of respect you would anyone else when giving criticism, and ask yourself if you're being harder or more lenient because the employee's your friend.
5. Un-friend with class
Invariably, some friendships end. Whether you had a falling out with your work friend or you feel as though the relationship is no longer mutually beneficial, don't let that affect your job. Be polite and professional, and always take the high road. Squabbling with a coworker reflects poorly on you and shows your manager that you are incapable of handling a difficult situation.
Having friends at work can make all the difference in how you approach your job. Work friendships boost positivity and productivity, and can turn into lifelong relationships. As long as you proceed with caution and always remember to be professional, work friends are people with whom you can share valuable and meaningful experiences for years to come.
How do you manage your relationships with work friends? Share your experience below.