In most cases, all of your coworkers are not your friends. Whether you’re just starting out or a bit established in the workforce, a good mindset to have when starting a new job is #nonewfriends. This isn’t to say that you never can or never will make friends at work; in fact, if you check out my Instagram, you’ll see that several people made friends and best friends from jobs they’ve had. This is definitely inspiring but, I’m here to tell you: tread lightly. You may find a few great friends as you move through your career, and you may stumble upon some snakes in the grass. Just remember the only one who cares as much about your career as you is you.
If you’re a visual person, check out my YouTube video on this topic as well.
Here’s the first reason your coworkers may not be your friends: some people consider work to be all about competition. There’s a quote by Theodore Roosevelt, “comparison is the thief of joy.” Some people in this corporate world want what you have, or they’re eager to get something before you do. On one hand, there’s healthy competition where everyone is striving to do their best and genuinely celebrates their peers’ wins. And then there’s cut-throat competition where your peers and managers take no prisoners.
While there’s no right or wrong way to go, it’s best to know yourself. And know what you’re willing to work with, tolerate, or actively manage. Cut-throat competition can be in any company, big or small. This is where your coworkers are most definitely not your friends. Especially if you are in the same cohort and/or same industry line, no matter how connected you may feel to them.
This is an environment where playing the game is just as vital to career progression as your job competency (how well you perform in your role). You can be friendly with your coworkers. Have a few drinks with them after work, or keep in professional contact down the road, but be cautious. Don’t gossip about what’s going on in the office or give them too many personal details. Sometimes these folks can air out your personal business to others or use it against you when it’s time for promotions.
Crossing Personal and Professional Boundaries
The second reason is that it may be more beneficial to you to keep certain boundaries. In 2018, only 15% of people consider their coworkers to be “real friends”. I would speculate it’s easier to keep divisions between your personal and professional life when you keep your coworkers at arm’s length. In fact, if you’re like me, you may prefer to compartmentalize those realms so you can have a nice balance of work and play. When your personal life is too close to your work life, it can create unnecessary drama.
It’s also not good to be the messy coworker spreading all the gossip or rumors, especially if you’re in a field like Human Resources. How can you expect people to trust you with confidential information if you’re out here spilling it to everyone at happy hour?! This also applies to Finance. People need to trust you with high-profile information like mergers and acquisitions that can’t be shared with anyone. Loose lips sink ships.
Losing a Coworker Friend Can be Messy
Although I’d like to assume you’ve probably experienced the loss of a friendship by now, I won’t be so bold. Building a relationship with anyone doesn’t happen overnight and it can be difficult to let go. Sometimes people outgrow each other, and other times there may be a breach of trust or lingering feelings of jealousy. Whatever the reason is, it’s hard to lose the people we consider real friends. It can be much harder when we lose friends that we still have to work with. If you’re too friendly with your coworker(s) and you have a falling out, it can play out in the form of an office melodrama. Not good. No matter what the situation, remember to stay cordial and professional. It’s okay not to be friends, but don’t drag the messiness into the rest of the team’s lives and bring everyone down with you.
Trust Your Gut and Do You
Ultimately, my thoughts are just that, mine, lol. As long as you trust your gut and at least consider what I said, I have faith that you can make the best decision for yourself and your goals. Be cautious and intentional about the people you choose to spend time within and out of work, and remember to place healthy boundaries on those coworker relationships. Was this helpful to you? Let me know in the comments! I’ll see you next post,