The 7 Rules for Navigating Office Friendships

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: July 16, 2014

Everything -- Including Work Friendships -- In Moderation

Some people say you shouldn’t be friends with anyone at work. Others say being extremely close with coworkers is necessary because it increases employee satisfaction and productivity. But why can’t there be a middle ground?

When you spend 40+ hours a week with the same people over the course of several years, chances are you’re going to bond with a few of them. And that’s a good thing in our book – in moderation. Let’s face it, the American workplace is a competitive environment and that can be toxic for friendships. You’re there to work, but many people are often gregarious by nature. So what’s the solution?

It’s great to have friendships at work, but be realistic and exercise some common sense. Here are a few tips to help you on your way.

7. Make Sure the Friendship Is Reciprocal

In short, make sure the person you think you’re friends with also wants to be friends with you.

It’s great that you’re a people person and you tend to form close relationships wherever you go. But others might be lone wolves, or they’re interested in a more casual friendship. Before you go trying to form lifelong bonds, make sure you read the situation and act accordingly. Otherwise it can get pretty awkward pretty fast, and even the biggest office are too small for tension between team members who have to work together on a daily basis.

6. It's OK to Get Personal

Despite some dissenting opinions (even by others on this very website), I think it’s perfectly acceptable – and even preferable – to be friends with coworkers.

Studies like this one show some of the strongest bonds can actually form at work, even in high stress situations. And let’s face it, if you have to be around the same people in a confined space and countless meetings day after day for more than 40 hours a week, work can be so more pleasant if you’re friends with your team members.

But in the end it’s personal preference. So if you’re someone who likes people and you want to be friends with other people at work who feel the same, go for it.

5. But Not TOO Personal

No, I’m not being a hypocrite. Just trying to apply some logic and reason.

Most people, even outside the confines of work, have different types of friends. Best friends are no holds barred sharers of even the biggest secrets and skeletons in the closet. But others aren’t, and they fall into a category in which you like them and it’s fun hanging out with them, but they aren’t considered close friends because people at the office might want to be friends, but not hear every sordid detail of your life. And maybe that’s where your work friends belong.

Obviously it depends on the people involved, but it might be wise to consider keeping work friends out of the innermost circles.

4. Consider the Social Media Ramifications

These days you’re not just deciding to be friends in real life, but also on social media. Which can be tricky.

If you’re someone who uses your private social media account to occasionally vent about work, allowing a coworker on your Facebook could be problematic. What if you complain online about someone else who you’re not friendly with, but your friend is? Or what if you brag on Facebook about receiving a raise, only to find out your friend didn’t get one and now there are hard feelings?

It’s great to have friends, but giving coworkers access to your private life in person and online is a tightrope.

3. Don't Badmouth the Boss/Coworkers

The easiest and most apparent thing for coworkers to bond over is their boss and other coworkers. And more specifically, how much they can’t stand them.

As tempting as it can be for friends to gossip about people at the office, it might be best to avoid it. Or at least engage in it on your own time outside the confines of the cubicles. If you and an office friend become known for constant complaining and questioning every decision management makes, you run the risk of being thought of as nothing more than the office malcontents.

2. Don't Let Productivity Suffer

It’s wonderful to make new friends and have new and important people in our lives. But let’s not forget, you’re still at work. So while establishing friendships is a great thing, don’t let it interfere with the actual work you’re doing. It’d be a shame to have to make friends in the unemployment line.

1. Remember, Work is Competitive

It’s not that work friendships can’t be genuine and long-lasting. They can. But remember, workplaces are still competitive.

In this LinkedIn survey, there was plenty of good news/bad news at play. The good news is half of Millennials feel strong workplace friendships are important to them. However, when asked if they would sacrifice a work relationship for a promotion, more than two-thirds (68%) said they would throw their work friends under the bus.

So just remember that while you’re chummy with people at work, some of them would be all too willing to step on your back to climb the corporate ladder.

Navigate Friendships, But Negotiate Salary

Before you get to the point of navigating work friendships, you have to get the job. And before that becomes final, you have to negotiate salary. And Salary.com can help you get paid fairly what you do.

The first thing you should do is research, so you're able to come to the table armed with the knowledge of what your job is worth. Use our free Salary Wizard below to find out what's a fair salary for your position. You can enter your location, education level, years of experience and more to find out an appropriate salary range before you negotiate.

Good luck.

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