There are probably a lot of mixed feelings on whether your co-workers should be your friends. I am here to say a resounding yes, with a grain of salt tossed in there. Some of my closest friends have been my co-workers. After all, you’re spending more time with them than your family in most cases.
It is natural to become friendly with your cube mates or those you work closely with on a daily basis. You may bond over the fact that you’re working on a project together, you are both on the same team, you find out over time that you have a lot in common, you dislike all the same co-workers, you volunteer for the same work functions and so on. You go out to a couple lunches or go out for after work drinks and voila, you are now friends.
I believe there are also levels of work friends. There are those that are strictly work friends, meaning you only talk at work, maybe have lunch or catch up occasionally. Then there are after work friends who you may get together with after work, or for birthdays, whom you may instant message periodically. Then there are close friends who happen to be co-workers who you text with regularly and make a point to check-in with daily. You also get together outside of work functions with your families.
What Are the Pros?
There are times when you want a close friend at work for a multitude of scenarios. You are running late and need someone to cover for you by saying they saw you just a moment ago but don’t know where you went off to. Or you have a bathroom emergency and need to text SOS to your co-worker to bring you some Ibuprofen or feminine supplies. You can openly raid their candy stash at any time because that’s what friends are for. You can bounce work ideas of that person. You can ask them for advice when it comes to a certain person you both work with. You also want to have a support system if you’re having a bad day and just need to vent. Along these lines, if you and your co-worker are both having bad days because of a cranky boss or a project gone wrong, and you can commiserate together.
Conversely, you also want that cheerleader in your corner who you can humbly brag to after a job well done. You can have someone to go on walks with during lunch. You can coordinate office pranks. You can have someone to go to lunch with. You may even need a ride to work one day. You are also less likely to leave a job you enjoy with people you enjoy. And ultimately, with friends at work, work is a lot more fun! I realize this all sounds rather co-dependent, but they are co-workers for a reason and I stand by my belief that you need at least one good friend at work.
What Are the Cons?
I will include some cons in here for those that would disagree with me. If your co-worker pal is senior to you or vice versa, or if they are your direct boss, things could get tricky if there’s a situation where one of you has to be disciplined by the other. You or they may also feel they do not have to respect the other’s authority because you are friends. Other employees might assume favoritism. If you have a small office staff, and something goes awry with the friendship it will cause awkwardness and most likely a choosing of sides among the rest of the staff. It is also difficult to keep secrets from them, even when you know something at work is confidential information. In addition, if you’re too social, you may not be getting your work done and your productivity tanks.
On the flip side, others may feel that you are only there to work and not to make friends and that is okay too.
My one caveat to all this is that you want to be careful who you trust. You can have co-worker friends who you still keep at a distance but are friendly with. You do not tell them everything. You do not share salaries, how you are vying for a promotion, or spreading gossip like crazy. I have seen people get burned because they trusted the wrong person and overshared, and it backfired. If a person gossips regularly about people you know, you better assume you are being gossiped about as well. Wait to establish your relationships before spilling your guts. You just never know.
People can be very different outside of work. My other rule is to not be friends with current co-workers on social media. There is just too much potential drama there, and better for everyone to avoid it. Instagram would be one possible exception, but again, keep in mind, what you post could potentially be used against you in a work situation if it turns out that friend is not so great of a friend.
At the end of the day, you are at a job to work, but why not make it a little more fun if you can?
Jennifer spends time with her son, her parrot, writing, Netflix, art, and hikes are among her favorites. She has a career in marketing as well is a personal assistant, and founder of Lark Designs.