We all know couples who have met in the workplace. It happens, when you spend the majority of your waking hours with the same people, and you even sometimes socialise with them.
But what about making friends in the workplace? I’m not talking about people you happen to get along well with at work, who you can share solid banter with. I’m talking people you can count on – people that you trust to pick you up when you’re down, who you can share intimate details of your life with.
In reality, the people we spend the most time with at work, are exactly the ones that we shouldn’t make friends with. It’s hard to be real friends with someone who either reports to you, or who you report to. How can you possibly not feel disproportionately bad about having to give a friend difficult feedback? Or not a little bit miffed that they are holding you accountable for something you don’t believe to be squarely your fault? Perhaps you’re slightly suspicious that they didn’t go in to bat 100% for your pay rise or full bonus entitlement, or that they possibly aren’t working as hard as they could be on an important project that you are ultimately responsible for. How much more difficult, as friends, is it to deal with these things with as little emotion and as professionally as possible?
Even if you don’t work in a direct reporting relationship, what if you are both at the same level in the company and one of you gets promoted above the other? How will you feel about your friend being considered more appropriate for promotion when you have always considered yourself an equal?
And think of this – reports should respect their managers. If they know about the inner workings of your boozy weekends, your failed relationships and how many one night stands you’ve had, can you honestly say that it won’t taint their belief in your ability to make the right decision under pressure one teeny tiny bit? And what would you boss think of your judgement if they know you’re out every night, running on four hours sleep?
Friendships at work can be fraught with difficulty. They do, and can exist happily, but they work best when you don’t work directly with or in competition with each other. Real, lasting friendships work because there is no sense of competition. You support each other without second thoughts, with no other motive than because you want the best for each other. They work because you don’t judge each other, but because you accept each others decisions and help each other through whatever the consequences may be.
You should, and can, have fun at work and build relationships with your colleagues. But be wary of sharing your life like an open book with everyone – there are some things that only your real friends should know.