Workplace friendships can be fun, inspiring, and even boost productivity. But, they can also go awry, and potentially wreak havoc on your career and even emotional well-being. Try these tips to maintain healthy and successful workplace friendships.
Don’t dive in too fast to new friendships. The reality is that the office is usually, on some level, a competitive environment. Even if you’re not vying for the same promotion, you’re both probably vying for one. If you work as part of a team, you want to have the best team — and that means being on alert for who may be slipping or preparing to move on.
Don’t Be a Debbie
A Debbie Downer, that is. Complaining about your work, your boss, etc. is a bad idea. Even if you feel certain you can trust your coworker not to say anything, grousing makes you less fun to be around. Keep it positive — you’ll come off as more fun, and feel better at work. If possible, pick a place that offers more to do than just drink – while the office happy hour is a common after-hours work bonding activity, there’s no denying that it is limiting. Consider picking a venue that’s at least quiet enough for a whole group to talk–it’s uncomfortable when the music is so loud you need to invade personal space to hear someone or be heard.
Cocktail with Caution
Speaking of happy hour, the office happy hour is one party you don’t want to be the life of — not all the time, anyway. Set a strict drink limit, and try not to go every single time. Seriously — the only thing worse than showing up to work hungover is hungover and embarrassed. If you’re the manager, don’t stay for more than one drink; if you’re even higher up, probably don’t go.
Stay Focused While At Work
According to the employee survey platform Officevibe, socializing with colleagues is the only thing proven to make you as happy than when you’re not at work. However, too much chatter can distract you from being productive, so balance is key. Consider saving the bulk of your conversation for lunches, breaks, or quick encounters. On a more macro level, stay focused on your goals and tasks and always award projects, raises, and promotions based on merit, not personal relationships. Don’t let your appreciation for someone’s character cloud your judgement of their skill.
Pursue Non-Work Friendships
For some, it may feel like a struggle to even see family. It’s no wonder we can get flaky when it comes to making time for the friends we don’t conveniently see every weekday. The solution is to make it as convenient to see those non-work friends. Sign up for a class. Better yet, sign up for a volunteer shift somewhere you’ll both love being — like an animal shelter or art center (volunteermatch.org is a great resource for finding organizations in need). Trust — a snuggle fest with needy puppies is a lot harder to skip out on that a standing coffee or dinner date. If you’re looking to meet new friends, signing up for a class or volunteer commitment is a fantastic way to meet people who share your interests, struggles, and passions without the risks inherent in an office community.
Be an Individual
When you’re close with your colleagues, it can be easy to lose focus and blend in with the rest of the team. Unbeknownst to you, you can easily stop making it clear to your superiors what you’ve accomplished, what projects you’ve excelled at. Even if you’re the top dog, if most of your friendships are connected to your professional life, chances are your identity is becoming way too insular. Keep trying new things, meeting people who have nothing to do with your line of work, and taking time to just be yourself — it’ll be better for your business and better for you.
Keep Clean Records
If you’re an employer, having secure, reliable, objective records are important in making sure that employees can’t take advantage of your friendship; if you’re an employee, they’re insurance you won’t be unjustly discriminated against because of your personal relationships. Keep clear records of hours, wages, any incentives offered for promotions, etc., to avoid future conflict. Employees, hourly and salaried, should all clock in on a digitized employee time tracking system to avoid confusion about how long everyone is working. It’s much easier to put friendships aside and discuss a problem objectively and work out a solution when you have hard numbers. If you really want to make sure there’s no room for confusion, you may even want to consider installing a biometric identification access system— that way, you’ll know beyond a doubt who is clocking in — and walking into your building, if you ever have an issue with thievery or vandalism.