Work friendships

Building Work Friendships — One Step at a Time

So many of us have a love-hate relationship with work. It brings us some combination of satisfaction, confidence, status, money. And, at the same time, stress, stress, and more stress — from feeling overworked or underappreciated. That’s just for people who basically like their jobs. (We won’t go down a rabbit hole of recrimination, unfairness, incompetence, and fear talking about what work means for people who don’t like their jobs.)

Let’s talk about something that helps people enjoy their jobs: Friends at work.

It’s fun to see friends during the work day — to hang out with for lunch, see in meetings, or stand with around the water cooler (do these still exist?) to figure out what’s up with the boss today. On the plus side, these close relationships help us to enjoy our work more and even feel more engaged with the company.

  • 70% of employees says friends at work is crucial to a happy work life
  • 74% of women would refuse a higher paying job if it meant not getting along with coworkers
  • Half of employees with a best friend at work report feeling a strong connection with their company
  • 1/3 of adults have met at least one of their closest friends at work. (We can attest to that in our own lives. Hi there PJK and PJM! ) Source: OfficeVibe

No matter how long you’ve been in the work force, making friends at work isn’t a given for everyone. So, if you don’t already have good friends at work and are looking to make some, here are some ideas to get you started. Yes, it takes work. And energy. And occasionally stepping outside your comfort zone, as so many of the good things in life do.

Making friends at work isn’t all that much different from making friends in other environments. In fact, work friendships have some definite advantages. You aren’t starting at zero — you already spend time with them and have something in common, key components in building long-lasting relationships.

Meeting people at work

Move from where you normally spend your time

  • Stand up from your desk. Or move out from behind the counter. No matter how awesome you are (and we know you are!) it’s unlikely most of us can just stand in one place and have new potential friends walk up and say hi. After those first few days or weeks at a new job, when everyone is making the effort to meet you.
  • Take breaks and move around to meet others — in the lunch room, at their desk or station — as long as that doesn’t compromise your work obligations or theirs. We all know the frustration of being ignored by someone — like a server or employee at a sales counter — who’s laser focused chatting with a friend (live or on the phone) and not doing their job. Don’t be that person.

Join in organized activities

  • Participate in office get-togethers like birthday celebrations or group lunches, especially those during the work day. It can be harder to meet some people during organized or work sponsored activities outside of work hours (like dinners after a day in the office or offsite volunteering) because of commuting time or other obligations.

Building into friendships

Talk about something other than work. Initially the thing you have in common is work and you’ll necessarily talk about that, like the projects you have together or news about colleagues (non-gossipy, of course). Turning that info a friendship means that at some point you’ll have to start talking about personal topics. As appropriate (and without oversharing), sprinkle in non-work topics — friends and family, weekend activities, movies or tv shows you like, current events. That builds the connection that leads to friendship.

A caveat

There is one caution about work friendships, that isn’t typically an issue with our other friendships. This may be a place where you’ve built your reputation and your career. And it’s the place that pays the bills and makes it possible to do all the things you like to do and buy all the stuff you love having.

Be on the lookout for people who could cause problems by not being trustworthy, such as people who are competitive, passive-aggressive, and gossipy. Steer clear. (And, oh yeah, don’t you be one of these people either; that will definitely make it harder to make friends.) Also, when building friendships with bosses or subordinates, be aware how this appears to others and how it may affect your work — to avoid appearance (and the actuality) of favoritism.

Photo by Emma Dau on Unsplash

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