Friends at Work: How to go from colleague to friend|
The line between friend and coworker can be a blurry one. And it is often a personal choice you have to make regarding how friendly you want to be with your coworkers and how you make friends at work. I know people who like to keep their work and life completely separate and I respect that, but I know that I am unable to do that. (I haven’t been unable to do that at my time in a large consulting firm and now in a startup.) Plus a Gallup study from a while back found that “when compared to those who don’t, employees who have best friends at work identify significantly higher levels of healthy stress management, even though they experience the same levels of stress.”
My best friend’s since college and even my business partner are currently or were colleagues. The bond you make with the people you work with is unique and it will be a different relationship with them than the friends you’ve made in college, at the gym or that you grew up with. And that is just fine.
I don’t want to dive into a theoretical or hypothetical conversation about how close or distant you should make your relationships with colleagues; instead I want to focus today on how to go about appropriately making friends at work. Making friends with your coworkers is different than making friends at school.
There are more stakeholders to manage while making friends at work and impression management must be a part of your arsenal. You can’t get too close too soon and you absolutely should not go out and get plastered or complain about your job or anyone else at the company with your coworkers, at least in the beginning. You’ll notice below in my tips on how to make friends alcohol is not included in the immediate part of the friendship. That doesn’t mean I didn’t and still don’t go out with my current coworkers or past coworkers, but I was conscious to start my friendships with people on solid, sober grounds.
Here’s how I made friends at work
1. I connected with people with interests like mine:
I am forever grateful that McKinsey sponsored a gym for all of us in our New York office to play basketball in once a week. While it took a lot of courage for me to go the first time I am so glad that I did. To this day some of my best male friends were the ones I met playing basketball with. Although this example is about sports there are many other ways to connect with people with interests like yours. You could suggest going to a museum together, taking a painting class together, or creating a book club. There are many ways to connect with others you just need to be comfortable suggesting ideas or putting yourself out there.
2. I smiled and said hello in the hallway:
When in a big company you might feel more comfortable walking down the hall with your head down or walking into the lunch room pretending to play on your Blackberry. I know those are the easy routes to take, but I suggest you force yourself to strike up conversations, say hello and smile. Try a simple “Hi, I’m Amanda from the Organization Practice, what area or project are you working on right now?” introductory question. You’ll find that 99% of people are responsive and excited to talk to you.
3. I took on opportunities to lead office initiatives:
Not only is this a step-up opportunity, but it’s also a great way to make friends. In fact Caroline and I led the interoffice Green Team initiative for the North East offices. It was a great way to get to work together and also have fun and do something that helped our professional development!
Tell me – how have you made friends at work?
Photo Courtesy of Circle of Moms