Friends with Your Coworkers Isn’t Always a Good Idea

We’ve had a situation at work recently that has absolutely nothing to do with me or my family, but there are some great takeaways for your career. Basically, I noticed that rumors (true or not) were flying around, and I saw some interesting dynamics based on employees’ personal, extracurricular relationships with one another.

I’ve had a few posts talking about my career, and while my career trajectory is nothing stellar, I do like to think I have a few insights to offer people – why not offer them here? The better you do in your career, the more money you’ll make, right? The more money you make, the quicker you can pay off debt!

If I could wake up and be anything I wanted, I think I would be a career coach that has flares of Dave Ramsey and Patti Stanger. You know, tough love. Getting ahead in whatever field you are in is part experience, part talent, and part soft skills

Here are some of my observations about why being friends with your coworkers isn’t always a good idea. And let’s be honest – being friendly is always a good idea. We are talking about close, personal relationships here.

Being the Target of Gossip

The more you associate with colleagues outside of work, the more others in the office may gossip about you. This is especially true if the office has lots of cliques – people in clique A will gossip about members of clique B and so on. Say you are female and you hang out with one of the guys. It’s all very innocent. He gets promoted and then later, you do, too. Guess what folks are saying about the two of you?

There’s a lot of Drama

As a rule, I do not accept friend requests on Facebook from colleagues. I will connect with them on LinkedIn, where all my statuses are completely related to my career. Once I have left a position, I will friend (or accept requests) from former colleagues with whom I wish to continue a personal relationship. (This also means I can complain about work if I want to, and don’t have to worry too much about that going around the office.)

Work Life Balance Is a Real Thing

It’s important to be able to put work completely behind you, to recuperate and relax. This helps you come back to work energized, refreshed, and motivated to do your best. That’s harder to do when you have side conversations about work during your time off.

You know what makes work life balance hard? Never leaving work. If you are out at the bar with your colleagues, I bet you talk at least a little about work. If you go camping all weekend with them, I’m going to guess someone will talk about how you’ll get dinner done on time, since you are always so punctual to meetings. If colleagues come to your house for a BBQ, someone is sure to bring up how much they dread going back to work on Monday.

Collateral Damage

let’s say you and John are good buddies and John is threatened with termination unless he attends an alcohol treatment program. People will call into question your judgement. They will assume you also had a problem and somehow escaped the same fate. Basically, it’s the rumors all over again. Keep telling yourself you don’t care – but if those things affect your performance because coworkers hold back from you or they affect raises because management buys in, you probably will care.

Final Thoughts

I like to be friendly with my coworkers. I have done a happy hour here or there. I have also attended parties and showers at coworkers’ homes. As important as it is to not be close friends with your coworkers, it’s equally important to not be a total recluse. It’s a fine line to walk, but once you set up some boundaries, you’ll find that it’s not so difficult.