As I am an independent worker now, I have lots of autonomy – which is great. I do love the flexibility and being my own boss. However, I do miss the ‘teaminess’ and friendships I had in the workplace. I especially miss the social aspects and celebrating a birthday – or planning a Christmas meal with the team and especially miss training and development of a team. I miss the friendliness of a team and I also miss forming friendships at work.

Even with the advent of hybrid working, we spend a lot of time at work, so it’s natural to form friendships with our colleagues. Having friends at work can make our workdays more enjoyable, meaningful, and productive. They can also provide us with emotional support, feedback, and opportunities for learning and growth.

However, workplace friendships are not without challenges. They can create conflicts of interest, perceptions of favouritism, or difficulties in maintaining boundaries. They can also change over time, depending on the circumstances and dynamics at work.

Tips for managing friendships at work

So how can we manage our workplace friendships in a way that maximises the benefits and minimises the risks? Here are some tips from my experience and also drawn from studies:

  • Respect your friend’s role and position. If your friend is your manager or subordinate, you need to keep a professional relationship at work and avoid any appearance of bias or preferential treatment. Respect their authority and feedback, and don’t expect them to do you any favours or cover for you. If you have a disagreement or a problem with your friend, address it directly and constructively, and don’t let it affect your work performance or relationship.

  • Manage your time and productivity. It’s great to have a chat or a lunch break with your work friends, but don’t let it interfere with your work or deadlines. Keep your conversations relevant and appropriate for the workplace, and while not easy, I feel it is important that we don’t gossip or complain about other coworkers or managers. The other point is, it is a good ideas that if you need to talk about something personal or sensitive to you (from your personal life), do it outside of work hours or in a private setting where possible.

  • Include your other coworkers. Don’t exclude or ignore them because you have a close circle of friends at work. Include them in your conversations and activities and show interest in their opinions and perspectives. You never know who might become your next friend or ally! By being inclusive and friendly, you can also avoid creating cliques – or even imagined cliques which can lead to tensions in the workplace.

  • Set clear boundaries and expectations. Don’t mix work and personal issues, unless they affect your performance or well-being. Don’t share confidential or sensitive information with your work friends, and don’t ask them to do the same. Don’t pressure them to hang out with you outside of work or take it personally if they decline. Respect their privacy and preferences, and don’t cross the line between friendship and intimacy.

  • Be flexible and adaptable. Friendships at work can change over time, depending on the circumstances and dynamics. Your friend might get promoted, transferred, or leave the company. You might have a disagreement or a falling out. You might find new friends or interests. Be prepared to adjust your relationship accordingly, and don’t let it affect your work quality or morale.

Concluding thoughts

Thinking back to my time in in work, I do feel that friendships at work can enrich your professional and personal life, as long as you manage them wisely and respectfully. Follow these tips to cultivate healthy and positive workplace friendships that will help you grow and thrive.

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Blog by Dr Naeema Pasha

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