How (and How Not) To Work With Your Friends
We spend a lot of time at work. Assuming an eight-hour workday, we log one-third of each day during the week at the office. It’s no wonder that many of us get close to our co-workers. We see them more than we see our own families, and we often have a lot in common. (Especially if we’re lucky enough to like what we do for work.)
But even though it might sound nice to be friends with your colleagues, it’s not all fun and games. Working with people you know socially can be fraught with peril, both personal and professional. Fortunately, there are a few ways to minimize the risks and maximize the benefits of working with friends:
1. Don’t type anything you wouldn’t print out and hang over your desk.
That goes for email, messaging, interoffice memo carried by passenger pigeon, everything.
In the modern office, there is no water cooler (or if there is, people don’t congregate there). Messaging apps have taken the place of in-person gossip. That’s dangerous, because while in the olden days, you had to be overheard in order to get in trouble, now all you have to do is message the wrong person or get caught by the company’s monitoring software.
Worst-case scenario, your office pal turns out to be less a best friend than a worst enemy, and he or she rats you out to the boss. In any case, you’re better off not committing to type anything you wouldn’t want your colleagues reading.
2. Do observe a separation between personal and professional.
No matter how close you are outside of work, at the office, you need to be colleagues first and friends second. That means not talking about that crazy party so that your cubicle mates can hear or picking each other’s side automatically whenever there’s a team disagreement.
You don’t need to pretend to be strangers, but you do need to make sure that your personal connection doesn’t make it harder for other people to get work done. No one wants to feel like the odd man out.
3. Don’t get used to the current org chart.
Whether you become close friends with a co-worker or bring one of your best pals into the company for a new role, you need to ask yourself the hardest question of all: will you both be OK, if one of you gets promoted?
Obviously, the most difficult scenario to deal with is the one in which one of you becomes the boss. But even if you’re not promoted above each other’s head, sooner or later one of you will move up the ladder before the other. Get comfortable with that idea before you have to fake a congratulatory smile in the weekly meeting.
4. Do have friends outside of work.
The more intense your industry and corporate culture, the more time you spend at work, and the closer you’re likely to be to your co-workers. That can create a wonderful sense of camaraderie, making work into more than just a job, and your company feel almost like a family – but remember that “almost.”
Companies aren’t family, and jobs aren’t forever. Making friends at work can make you better at your job, more productive, and less stressed. Best of all, you can make lasting relationships that you’ll enjoy long after your exit interview.
But don’t allow your world to shrink to the size of your job. You don’t want a change in fortunes for your company to become a major blow to your personal life, as well as a professional speed bump. Plus, you deserve a bigger life than one company can provide, no matter how much fun you’re having or how great the people are, over in the next cube.