Even platonic workplace relationships can be a little tricky to navigate but more and more research is showing that office friendships create a happier working environment, make our jobs more fulfilling and increase productivity. Author of The Best Place to Work, Ron Friedman points out, “Feeling a connection with colleagues can motivate employees to work harder for a simple reason. When colleagues are close, a poor effort means more than a dissatisfied customer or an unhappy manager. It means letting down your friends. The social pressure to do a good job can often serve as a stronger motivator than anything a boss can say.”
When you think about the fact that most of us spend more time at the office with our coworkers than we do with our own families and non-work friends, we’d be pretty miserable without friendship at work. Of course, when we fight with non-work friends it’s possible to take a break, step back to get a little perspective and allow hurt feelings to heal or simply cut toxic people out of our lives when necessary. When workplace relationships become strained, you’ve got to find a way to set aside personal feelings so your work doesn’t begin to suffer. Not to mention, keeping your awkwardness or hostility from making the rest of your coworkers feel uncomfortable or caught in the middle.
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When you have a trusted friend or two at work, you’ve got someone who doesn’t get bored when you need to blow off steam and complain a little. But just a little, try to keep it positive or you run the risk of talking each other into feeling unhappier. This kind of moral support can help you both get further and be more successful in your careers. However, it’s essential to be mindful that you don’t appear to be cliquish or playing favorites which can make the rest of the office feel alienated or resentful. It’s a good idea to focus on developing relationships with people who are at the same level since those are the people you interact and collaborate with on a daily basis.
The key to a successful friendship at work is just like any long-term relationship — take it slow. If you instantly click with a coworker and let your guard down right away, you run the risk of making unfiltered comments that come back to haunt you. You need to be sure you aren’t spilling secrets to the office gossip or a mean girl who will use them to further her own interests.
Work should be a drama-free zone whenever possible — it’s stressful enough without bringing personal conflicts into the mix so set boundaries and stick to them. If you do develop a particularly close friendship, have a discussion about how you will handle unresolved arguments or hurt feelings in the workplace. You both need to be able to set that stuff aside until after hours.