What to Do When You’re There to Work, Not Make Friends
It’s All About Boundaries
It might be tempting to hang out at the water cooler half the morning and indulge in the latest gossip, the fun anticipation of the office lottery pool, or friendly sports bets. But these easy friendships with coworkers can begin to spill over into your personal life, and that’s when things get dicey.
Setting boundaries is a good idea, but where do you begin? Can you set boundaries without hurting someone’s feelings? Can you keep your work relationships healthy even while you decline invitations that infringe on your personal time?
It’s possible, and it’s probably easier than you think. These hard-and-fast rules can help you set boundaries that will keep you sane — and keep your job secure.
7. Structure Your Time
The busier you are at work, the more likely you will be to focus on what you should be doing.
Plan out an hourly schedule that keeps your projects on track and forces you to avoid procrastination. This will naturally lead to less time milling about with coworkers and fewer bits of juicy gossip to ponder. Stay focused.
6. Say No & Stay Firm
When someone asks you why you aren’t hanging out with them after work, stick to your guns.
Simply tell them your time away from work is reserved for family and friends. If they try to make you feel guilty, stand your ground. They might be snippy for a while, but ultimately they have no choice but to respect your decisions.
If they don’t and it becomes an issue that starts to affect your work environment and productivity, it might be something to take up with human resources.
5. Don’t Mix Work & Play
The invitation to that hot new restaurant on a Saturday night or the happy hour drink party can be tempting, but it may be best to decline if you’re trying to keep it professional.
These after-hours soirees can very quickly blur the lines between the personal and professional. Keep your work life separate by attending only the company-sanctioned (and expected) events, such as the annual Christmas party or awards dinner. While you don’t want to be branded as antisocial, do your best to explain to coworkers that you value your family and/or other outside commitments.
4. Set Strict Time Limits
When you leave the office, you’re done with work.
Don’t answer any work-related calls. Don’t take work home with you. If you absolutely must do these things, choose an hour or two when you will respond to emails or finish up a bit of work, then set a timer to remind you when this additional work time is over.
Imposing these time limits will train you to keep work where it belongs, and that will help you keep the coworkers where they belong — at the office, not in your downtime.
3. Don’t Gossip (or at least do it wisely)
Remember, anyone who gossips with you will also be gossiping about you, so don’t give them any fodder for their fun.
Choose how far you will go. Perhaps it’s okay to talk about your daughter’s college acceptance, but not okay to talk about health issues. When you do talk about other people — as you inevitably will — keep it entirely positive, and never pry. You work too hard to have it all undone insinuations of having loose lips.
2. Minimize Trips to the Water Cooler
Those long discussions around the water cooler can lead to confiding in your coworkers, and that can lead to a more serious friendship than might be prudent for the office.
We’re not advising turning off all human emotion and failing to form connections at the office, so don’t avoid the office favorite chat spot completely. But if you’re looking to develop coworker relationships instead of friendships, limit your time chatting and always discuss lighter things like the weather or the latest music. If someone wants to get personal, that’s your cue to excuse yourself from the discussion.
1. Stay Off Facebook
It is one of the most delightful time-wasters to ever hit the office, but Facebook can also throw your work-life balance into a tailspin.
If you already have enough friends, then avoid friending your coworkers on your personal Facebook account. If you really do want to keep up with them, or if they try to friend you, you can create a separate page or group for your work friends only. In these days of social media it’s all too easy to get sucked in by office drama during the day, and Facebook drama after hours.
Personal or Professional: It’s Up to You
While some people thrive on office friendships, they aren’t for everyone. If you’re part of the group that likes keeping home and office life separate, put these boundaries in place, and stay strong.
Many coworkers mean well when they try to pull you into the latest gossip or ask probing questions about your life, and letting them in can be tempting. But by starting now with firm boundaries, you can set the proper tone and never have to deal with the question of work friends mingling too closely with your personal time.
Salary Negotiation is Personal AND Professional
You may not want to fraternize with your coworkers, but when you’re dealing with a job interview or performance review, it’s vital to talk salary with your boss. And Salary.com can help.
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