Monday, August 29, 2016

Can Coworkers Be Friends?

So I know that previously I've written about relationships with coworkers (mostly negative or tricky ones). But as I've transitioned from school life to work life (especially when I moved far away from my home town), I've found that some of my coworkers have become my closest friends. The kinds of friends who I talk to more regularly than my high school bffs years after I left the job (men and women alike). I'm actually going to weddings for several coworkers from previous jobs or internships this year.

Pros of coworker friendships:
  1.  You can talk to them about your day and they totally get it. Since they understand your industry, they can understand some of the nuances in your day that others may not. And since it's their industry, these stories don't bore them to tears (like some of your non-work friends and family).
  2. It's great networking! Especially when you end up moving your separate ways, you end up with strong professional connections at a range of organizations. 
  3. If you work together, chances are you have the same (crazy) schedule. If you have to cancel for work reasons, they totally get it. 
  4. They can be co-mentors. Even if they are not above you in rank, you can share honest feedback with each other to help each other improve as professionals. I talk through difficult professional situations with ex-coworkers all the time.  
  5. They have your back at work. If they see you being criticized, they can defend you when you can't defend yourself. If you are having a tough time personally, they may even try to pick up the slack at work until you get back on your feet.

On the flip side, like regular friendships- some co-worker friendships don't work out for whatever reason. Be aware of this going in, because having a frenemy at work can have a profound impact on your professional life.

Things to keep in mind when you are with work friends:
  1. Don't play into the temptations of the work gossip mill. Especially early in a friendship, don't give them ammunition to tell other people, "Vanessa said that she HATES you because..."
  2. Drinking to excess with your coworker friends on a regular basis is a no-no. Work besties aren't the ones you want holding your hair after too many shots of tequila- if only because then they'll think of you as being irresponsible. 
  3. Promotions, and changes in responsibility can impact your friendships. Be honest with yourself about which friends will support you and which ones will be jealous, and try to introduce changes in your friend dynamic accordingly. 
So, be aware of the fact that these friends are work friends - but don't be afraid of making some real connections with your coworkers. My work friends are a lot of the reason I love my job, and my ex-coworker friends are amazing. They've helped support me through low points, celebrated my successes, been a sounding board when I feel lost, recommended me for future opportunities, and all together been an invaluable resource for me. I hope that all of you find some special coworkers who will be the same foundation for you.



PS. What experiences have you had with coworkers who crossed over to friends? Are they still close, or was there a catastrophe?

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  1. I love your awesome artwork, do you do murals ?
    I have made lots of good friends from the workplace, some of my best friends in fact, but I have found how true a friend they are really depends on the type of work you are doing.
    I used to work in competitive commission sales, and often times your "friends" were actually "frenemies" that we're secretly out to screw you out of a commission as soon, and as often as possible.
    I also worked as a teacher for some schools which were very competitive for promotions, often some frenemies there would relay your negative thoughts to the boss in the hope of getting your promotion.
    However one time I worked for HP as tech support, and made gobs of good friends that I still have to this day, because there was basically no hope of anyone being promoted, there was also no need for competition.

    1. Thanks PBScott! I don't consider myself an artist, but I'm happy if it makes you smile.
      That is fascinating that the place you found true friends was the most technologically focused position. I think that in my line of work, promotions mean more work, and not everyone is into that. I'm surprised that the position as a teacher was filled with frenemies, but I'm glad you found some good people at HP!

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