The line between friendship and coworker

Written by Caitlin Williams

Most people spend 35-40 hours a week at work, with their colleagues, so it’s easy to become friends with the people around you. But what about the line between friendship and coworker – where is it? How do you deal with it? What if it becomes a problem?

There are plenty of benefits – someone to eat lunch with, someone to talk to if you’ve had a bad day, someone to ask for help … but there are plenty of disadvantages to watch out for at the same time.

Job Differences

If one of you is more senior than the other, this can cause resentment and rebellion, particularly if the person who is more senior is a direct supervisor to the other person.

Imagine this:

A senior manager and an administration assistant are great friends. They go out for a few drinks and dinner after work. The following day, the assistant is late for work by an hour due to a hangover. The senior manager in this situation is required to provide the assistant with a warning for being late – but they’re friends, and the manager knows full well why the person was late.

The line between friends and coworkers blurs – if the manager gives the warning, the friendship might be damaged. But if they choose not to give the warning, they’re neglecting their duty.

What if someone leaves?

One of the friends leaving the company can either be a blessing or a curse. Either the friendship thrives, because the issue of work and seniority differences is no longer an issue, or the friendship fails because the common thread (work) is no longer there.

What if secrets are divulged?

Back to the scenario of the senior manager and the administration assistant being friends. The administration assistant may divulge something in confidence to the senior manager, as a friend, but the senior manager may feel obliged to report this back to the company if it impacts the administration assistant’s position at work.

What do you do?

Set boundaries. If you want to avoid friendships at work, avoid offers to hang out with coworkers outside of the office unless it’s a work social function. Be polite of course!

Structure your time at work. Avoid procrastination and periods of downtime – the perfect opportunity for people to start talking and strike up conversations.

Stay professional. If you do end up in a situation outside of work with coworkers, keep it professional. Have a drink or two, but don’t go overboard and spend the night drinking.



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