Office friendships can be a tricky to maintain. It’s like offering your hand for genuine friendship and the other behind your back holding a sword, ready to pounce in case you need to defend yourself. I realized later on in my life the importance of boundaries and work-life-balance, a thing that I don’t really think about in my 20s. As we spend long hours at work, our boundaries become rather flimsy and thus, our work and life spheres somehow become intertwined. So what now, should we really let these two important areas in our lives converge and affect each other?
A recent study proclaimed that a team made up of friends achieve better than those who are of a bunch of strangers who are merely contacts at work. This, however, is not that simple. In another study, ‘multiplex relationships’, bonds kept by those who stayed as close friends and direct co-workers at the same time give more emotional exhaustion or burnout—a feeling that the less friendly ones are spared of.
The cause is quiet self-explanatory. In these kinds of relationships, you are juggling between two opposing roles, that of being a true, supportive friend and that of being a distant, objective co-workers who only cares about outcomes and overall productivity of the team. When the situation demands, for sure, choosing which role to assume is surely exhausting.
Waning friendships affected by work-related concepts happen. A feeling of betrayal may happen if one will not support the other’s plans. Misunderstands may also happen if one spends more time with new people than the old friend.
Nevertheless, keeping friends in the office is still great—if they are handled properly.
Keep your boundaries intact.
Good fences make good neighbors—Robert Frost
It’s important to remind ourselves that we are at work and thus our priority should be in our tasks, not to the time spent in chatting. Setting boundaries is especially important when you are a boss and your subordinates are your friends as well. Sometimes, spending too much time with one or two office friends who are also your subordinates may be misunderstood as favoritism and may undermine your credibility to make sound and objective decisions in the office.
Boundaries especially in the aspects in your life that you want to reveal will also protect your privacy. You may not be comfortable talking about certain topics in your conversations and it is totally okay. This may also mean not involving your respective families in hangouts.
Your co-worker may have a different lifestyle than most people in the office, may live far or may already have a family and kids and thus hanging out for long hours is just not possible. Don’t force things. Genuine friendship is accepting the other and his/her limitations. Some may not be available to party at night, go out on weekends. Some may have dietary restrictions, and this should not stop you for considering them as your friend.
Don’t try hard to be part of a clique.
Some would want to be close immediately and may try too hard to fit in. Well, having friends at work is great, but what’s not great is when you lose your identity in the process. You are already grown-ups when you meet and thus acting like a desperate teenager who needs to belong in a clique might not be a good idea.
The scary thing about being in a group is that it may force you to do things that you don’t like, such as gossiping. Some may confuse small talk to gossiping, which is very wrong. Swapping tidbits of information is okay but shouldn’t be to the point of undermining the credibility of another co-worker.
Stop trying to be friends with everybody.
The office is like any other community in the universe. Some people may like you, some don’t. And it is totally fine. The more you try to be friends with everybody, the more awkward it will be. Acknowledge their needs to be alone and to select the company they like in the same way that you should acknowledge your relationships needs and stand by it.
Make time to meet and spend quality time with office friends.
Just like any relationship, office friendships need time and commitment to spend time for activities that you all enjoy. Set appointments in advance and make sure to follow them. Remembering birthdays, making an effort to give gifts in certain occasions will certainly make a difference.