Friendships in the office can make your workplace a fun, inviting place to be. Your coworkers can turn out to be some of your most valuable and trusted friends over time. But they can also sometimes be rife with office politics, competition, work-related conflict, and petty disagreements.
Here are a few tips on how to navigate office friendships with professionalism and poise.
Take it Slow
The main thing to remember about office friendships is that they could be long-term relationships, whether you choose that or not. You have no idea how long you’ll both be at the same company.
Additionally, someone who’s your colleague today could be your supervisor three years from now. So if you go on a bender with them and spill all your secrets, or laugh together about breaking a work rule, it might be awkward in a few months or years when they’re your boss!
Take things slow and start with just coffee or lunch. If an organic, deep friendship evolves over time and you can build trust, great. But if it doesn’t, it’s often a good idea to stay more “friendly” than “friends” with coworkers anyway.
While you might feel fine with everyone in the office knowing about your personal life, remember that not everyone feels the same way.
Some people might be going through a medical issue or a rough time at home, have reasons to keep certain details of their life private, or simply want to keep work and home as separate as possible.
If your work friends don’t volunteer details about their recent hospital stay, their divorce last year, or their sister’s weekend visit, don’t ask.
By the same token, you should feel free to say “I don’t feel comfortable talking about that” or “That’s a private matter” if your colleagues ever ask about something you don’t want to share.
Keep Some Things Private
Unless you’ve reached the point where it’s clear that your friendship exceeds the boundaries of the office, and you trust your work friend deeply, it’s often a good idea to keep some work-related details private.
If you’re applying for a promotion or just got a salary bump, for example, it’s wise not to share with your coworkers to avoid jealousy, gossip, or competition.