Office Diaries

An insider's guide to success in the workplace

Friendships at Work Can Work if...

Should friendships at work be encouraged or discouraged?

I never really understood the debate over why friendships at work were considered to be something bad and unwanted, or why companies have historically discouraged personal relationships between coworkers. These days however, as new and more open-minded generations move through the workforce, it is becoming a more dated point of view. But still, there are those who believe that personal and professional alliances simply don't mix. I disagree. I've developed work friendships since the beginning of my career which have proven to be some of the best, most rewarding relationships I have - by far.


So as the pendulum begins to swing away from the taboo notion that friendships at work threaten business results and toward what value may be inherent to having friends at work, employers appear to be rethinking old mandates that expect employees to keep their personal lives "outside."
Either way, whether you are for or against employee chumminess on the job, its success or failure ultimately depends on the individuals' maturity, professionalism and ability to manage healthy relationships both at work and at play. Meanwhile, there are a few key elements that can keep this potentially good thing from going bad:

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1. Never betray a confidence. You won't be trusted by your friends or anyone else in the organization.


2. Talk openly about performance if reporting lines exist in the relationship. Call a spade a spade and don't take feedback personally.


3. Talk openly about feelings. Share your emotional perspective, as well as your cognitive, so that you are understood as accurately as possible.


4. Don't gossip about other people. Friends, or not, people will think you gossip about them too.


5. Keep work separate from play. Know where the boundary lines should be drawn and maintain the appropriate behaviors for each "part" of the relationship within their respective environments.


6. Be clear about obligations and fulfill them on both fronts. Letting people down either personally or professionally will not only hurt your relationships, but it will damage your reputation too.

 

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Donna Flagg is the author of Surviving Dreaded Conversations and a New York City-based dancer.

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