From Colleagues to Friends

Why not make friends in the office  It improves team productivity and makes your surroundings more pleasant. If only there were good reasons to befriend our colleagues.

Theory tells us to leave our emotions at the office door, but it’s more complex than that in practise.  Emotional ties inevitably create work problems.  So, how can we build relationships at work without putting your whole heart into it?  We all aspire to work in a pleasant workplace with likeable colleagues, but can’t all commit with the same intensity.

Even if we’re forced to maintain good relationships with our colleagues, we aren’t obligated to befriend them. Some people outright forbid it out of fear of disrupting their connections. While others, on the contrary, don’t hesitate to open up.  I’m one of the latter, and admit that it might be a risky practise.  A friendship needs to be sincere and sturdy enough to survive the turbulence at work. But how is that achieved?

Don’t lose sight of your goal.  Professional relationships are founded on career interests whereas friendships are selfless.  It’s unecessary, if not dangerous, to use friendships to advance your career. If you look for friends among your colleagues, bosses, and other business relationships—ask yourself why. If you don’t have friends to pass the weekends with than you have a personal problem and the office isn’t the place to fix it.  If you sense someone is looking to intrude on your personal social universe, don’t let them.

Build a balanced relationship and watch out for getting too close.  There is a danger of investing too much in a colleague and it can be more frustrating than beneficial. Our personal emotions can pollute our work relationships. If a colleague, and friend, makes a hurtful remark on your filing system, you might see it as a personal attack when really they only wanted to help you.

Even though the professional world often resembles a family scene—sometimes harmonious and dysfunctional—be wary of transference.   We often have a tendency to transpose our family experience, with all their emotions, on our office relations.  It often occurs subconsciously and we are driven to think of our bosses as parents and colleagues as siblings.   The boss’ position of authority resembles that of a parent and,  according to our experience, we seek parental support and affection.  Ask yourself,  what generally motivates your behaviour at work and  does it remind you of your private life.  If the answer is yes, immediately change your approach and run straight to the psychiatrist.

We can balance friendships and professional relationships  that—by the way—wouldn’t be bad for business. According to a survey, published in 2001, by Ipsos, 83 percent of salaried workers value a good work atmosphere before career interest.  A more recent study, commissioned by the staffing agency Accountemps, indicated that the majority of employees (63 percent) and managers understand that friendships extending outside the workplace increases productivity.  I, too, share this opinion, but I have to admit that friendships don’t stop jealousy or professional rivalry.  In order to maintain friendly relations, there needs to be sufficient maturity to accept each other—without being jealous—if one or the other gets a promotion or raise.  Generally, people getting together outside of the office don’t tackle these professional questions during their personal meetings.

A real friend born in the professional world should be able to survive your departure from the organization and shouldn’t suffer because of your successes or failures.

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