The She Spends Guide to Workplace Friendships

Do you have a BFF at work? When we asked our Facebook group about their relationships in the workplace, responses were mixed. 

Some, like Shayna, are completely comfortable with work relationships. 

“I'm a total chatty person, so I have a LOT of work friends!” she says. “Out of them, though, I would only hang out outside of work with a handful.”

Meanwhile, Alichia talks about balancing her managerial role with interpersonal relationships at work. 

“I advanced early in my career and thus for the majority of my working life those that are similarly aged to me tended to be in roles below me,” she says. “I tend to be cautious about spending too much time outside of work with people I manage. I don't want to create unfair biases toward those I would hang out with outside of work versus those I wouldn't.”

Studies show that work friendships are actually a key to success on the job. That said, keeping some professional boundaries with your work friends can help the relationships remain strong and healthy. Here’s how to do it. 

Start by considering your coworkers. While your boss may seem like she’d be a fantastic BFF, you don’t want to push the boss-employee relationship beyond its boundaries. It may be better to look for relationships on your level at work, where there are fewer office politics that could get in the way. 

Invite your coworker to lunch or for a coffee — getting out of the office environment is an awesome way to talk about things beyond your work. Happy hours are another great place to get to know your coworkers. If you don’t drink, consider inviting them to a fun fitness class or to a post-work networking event. 

Setting regular times to hang out is a great way to continue building your friendship. One She Spends reader has weekly lunch dates set up with her coworkers. The best part? They don’t spend extra cash on eating out. Instead, her coworkers meet in her company’s break room with their packed lunches and hang out for a half an hour. 

Remember to keep your workplace boundaries in check. While a friendship with a coworker invites in a ton of benefits, like sharing salaries (and thus giving you both negotiating leverage!) and tips for dealing with your boss, you don’t want to overshare with someone at work. 

Relationship drama and information on partying are probably best left for your G-chat with your bestie. It’s also important to keep shit-talking about your co-workers to an absolute minimum. You may both have a mutual hatred of the guy who comes in late every day and interrupts you in every meeting, but keep it off Slack if you can.

Similarly, try to be an inclusive co-worker. You don’t have to hang out with all of your coworkers all of the time, but try to include them when you can. The worst work environment — for everyone involved — is one that is cliquey.

Keep in mind that workplace friendships have benefits that extend far beyond your time at a company. Those coworkers that become your friends are also a network of people who can help you succeed at future jobs, volunteer work and board roles. Be sure to be kind to them, and they’ll likely return the favor.

-  Alicia McElhaney / Issue #39

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