Let's face it, 9 to 5 jobs are tiring and somewhat frustrating. The only other people who share this ordeal with you are your colleagues. Once you enter work life, you'll find yourself having to spend more time in the office than with your old friends. How you deal with people in your workplace ultimately creates a lasting image for you, so it's important to stay on the good side of your co-workers. But often times, balancing this friendship on a steady ground becomes difficult for either parties. Workplace friendships aren't really selfless, unconditional bonds. There will be many incidents that cause tension and miscommunication.
There may not be many smack dab protocols as to how you can maintain a good, yet not too friendly relationship with your co-workers, but there sure are some basic guidelines you can follow.
Is sharing that really necessary?
While it's always an added bonus to find work friends who make time at the office enjoyable, sharing with them information that are crucial work issues or company flaws may not be the best idea.
“It is one thing to have light-hearted chitchats such as weekend plans or the recent Black Mirror episode, but venting about that horrible boss who never seems to give you a break, may constitute taking things too far entirely and stirring problems.”, says Odrika Iqbal, a teacher of the EEE department, Canadian University of Bangladesh.
Hence, sharing common hobbies or a similar sense of humour should not be an indicator of the colleague-friend being your all-time confidant.
In keeping with that, pressuring a work friend into disclosing some juicy office gossip or personal details with you will be uncalled for. So acknowledge the rapport with colleagues for what it really is: a friendly relationship at the office.
It's all about priorities
Understand that you and your colleagues have chiefly gotten together for work. Given the competitive nature of any company, academia, or organisation, it's better to be safe than sorry by knowing that friends formed in these places may not be as loyal as regular friends outside of work. You cannot expect your work friends to not double cross you and give up an opportunity for the next promotion in-line, because they will. Because priorities in workplaces are just like that. In workplace dictionary, it's fair.
On the other hand, you can't let the making or breaking of a friendship hinder your work performance. It's essential to recognise early on when such interactions turn into a distraction, ultimately derailing your ability to accomplish your goals.
You draw your own lines
Clearly communicating whatever boundaries you may have will make it easier for everyone. You can be this super-approachable-all-walls-down person in the informal office get-togethers or picnics, but the business-as-usual person when back in the office; that's up to you. But normalising this behaviour from the beginning, so that nobody is unnecessarily hurt or mislead, falls under your imperative responsibilities too.
Emphasize on equality
This pointer is especially significant if you're the team leader, or are given responsibilities to manage others. Treating team members equally is the best way to avoid biased relationships and group-thinks. All co-workers, and not just your own friends, should be given the same opportunities and encouragement to voice their ideas.
Along with all of these, you may find it in your best interests to look up your company/workplace policies (if any) regarding workplace friendships and relationships and act accordingly. Because as a whole, friendship anywhere when allowed to grow can help support, inspire and motivate you to reach your goals.
Eshanee is a junior at IBA, DU.