are your "work friends" your true friends?

Full-time work for me means 40-50 hours per week in the office with my coworkers. I spend 9-plus hours a day with them, and if I’m lucky, maybe 6 waking hours with my husband – less if you consider how much of that husband-time is spent checking email or responding to work matters from the couch at night when I'm supposed to be sharing quality time. It’s even less time with my children because they go to bed much earlier.

So I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the question of whether or not it’s beneficial to be friends with your coworkers. And by the same token, are coworkers actually friends, or just being “friendly?”

I took the question to my social-media outlets, where I appealed to others for their opinions about friendships in the workplace. Here are some of the answers I received.

“I believe a friendly relationship with your coworkers is very important for the strength of the team. However, if you become too close of friends, I can see how it could hurt the business in some ways. You begin to make emotional decisions at times instead of strict business decisions.”

“I think it’s a double-edged sword. You have to be careful. You don’t want the workplace to be cliquey, but it does create a nice environment when you’re friends with your coworkers…There are days when I wish everyone could just be friends and get along, and then there are days where I wish everyone just kept to themselves and did their jobs.”

“I think it’s a double-edged sword. It makes work enjoyable when you're friends, but sometimes work doesn’t get done. And if you’re in a place of authority over a ‘friend’, it’s a fine line.”

I think the question that resounds is whether, after a long day at work, would you want to see your coworker outside of the work environment, or would you rather go home to the friends you have outside of work? That appears to be the difference in having real friends at work, versus having work friends.

Size Matters

In my opinion, the size company you work for also plays a huge role in the type of friendships formed within a company. I’ve worked for both mid-sized and small-sized companies, and in both settings I've found people I can truly call my friends.

In fact, the maid-of-honor at my wedding was first my coworker and then my roommate and best friend. After leaving that mid-size company, I still regularly keep in touch with at least three of the ladies that I became friends with while there, and we're now enjoying new jobs, marriages, babies and life outside of that work setting.

It doesn’t always stay that way, though. I've had people I considered to be a “friend” while they were working in the office with me. One of them, as an example, left and never contacted me again. It only took a few failed attempts to connect to realize that she was a work-friend and not a true friend.

The feedback I've received from my social media outlets, however, paints a very different picture of friendships in the cutthroat, large enterprise world of business.

“You tend to run into more people that will screw you before they befriend you, and are really two-faced. Especially as you get into bigger and bigger employers.”

I actually had a friend who worked for a large agency tell me that working for a huge enterprise company was like selling your soul. You can’t make friends, because nobody's your friend. Everyone's out for himself and a friendly smile given one day will not keep you from getting stabbed in the back the next.

Friendship is Healthy

Overall, however, I think that developing friendships in the office is good for you and for your employer. It creates a sense of camaraderie and comfort.

I've worked in an environment where I didn't consider anyone else to be my friend, and my tenure didn't last long. Not only was the environment volatile, I couldn’t even lean on a support system around me to get through my days. I actually started making myself physically sick on the drive to work in the morning.

Remember, the key to developing work friendships is the same as developing personal friendships. Allow the friendship to develop naturally and organically. Given the fact that so much of our time is spent with our coworkers, it’s a natural development to recognize those folks you want to legitimately become friends with versus those with whom it's better to just remain friendly.

Tips for Workplace Friendships

When you do become friends with the people in your workplace, there are a few tips to keep the friendships healthy. While you can share details about your weekend, your children or your hobbies, there’s a list of things that you should still keep to yourself:
Money-related conversations: Keep your salary and your financial history to yourself.
Job-related details: Don't discuss performance issues, recent reviews, raises, bonuses, etc.
Intimate details: Don’t share your sexual history, or that you're hung over from a night of drinking.

Pros of Workplace Friendships

I may not share the opinion of the masses, but I'd prefer to be friends with the folks I work with for many reasons.

1. They often see you at your worst. Let’s face it, as hard as we try, it’s near impossible to keep work life and personal life separate. My colleagues have helped me through many difficult times with words of comfort, advice and thoughtful gestures. Just recently I lost my father to a severe illness, and I don’t think I could have gotten through the days and months preceding and following his death without my coworkers by my side.

2. They celebrate your birthday and anniversary. Come on, even family will push off celebrating your birthday until the weekend. Your coworkers will make a cake, take you to lunch or even drinks on your actual birthday.

3. They share a common sense of purpose. Everyone's working for the same company and overall, has the same goal – to make yourself, and in return the company more profitable. Plus, they make it worth getting out of bed on a snowy day and making the trek into work. Someone has likely already made a pot of coffee.

4. Friendly promotes creativity. When it’s easy to talk to your coworkers and you can relate on many different levels, you can be more comfortable thinking outside of the proverbial box and coming up with new, profitable ideas.

Cons of Workplace Friendships

There can be a downside to making friends in the workplace too. Sharing too much personal information can be a downside. Here are some others.

1. Work can become unprofessional. It’s important to remember that you're still in a professional setting, and as an experienced employee, keep the amount of water cooler chitchat to a minimum.

2. Backstabbing can happen. While you don’t like to admit it, the person you call a friend may wind up stabbing you in the back. It’s the nature of a work environment. You can be friends with those around you, just don’t get too surprised if one day that same person tried to sabotage you.

3. Lack of work-life balance. The lines may wind up blurred as to where work ends and outside life begins. I'd say if you and your coworker can have a conversation for 15 minutes and not bring up work, then you're likely in a place where you have more in common than work and can thus distinguish work and social lines.

I’m curious: I’m a friendly person by nature and I like to surround myself with positive people. Do you share my views about workplace friendships or do you disagree?

(taken from linkedin)

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