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How to Work With Friends

Topics: Work Culture

It’s no secret that we spend a lot of time with our co-workers. In fact, while there’s only about a 52 percent chance of us spending 30 hours a week with our family, there’s a 91 percent chance we will spend that much time with our co-workers. Like it or not, they’re the people that get the most of our time: friendship may very well be inevitable. When you do begin to form those bonds of camaraderie, here’s how to keep it from getting weird.


(Photo Credit: Startup Stock Photos/

In a lot of respects, you’ll find that you may not have to treat a work friend much different than a non-work friend –– at least, the same principles will apply. If you’re holding that person in the framework of a mutually respectful relationship, it won’t seem as awkward or clunky when you’re navigating the balance beam of being business buddies. 

Do You Know What You're Worth?

Above all, these are some of the crucial things to keep in mind when your friendship is forming.

Be Quick to Set Boundaries

In the name of literalism, please don’t pull a new work friend aside and say “Hey, new pal, it’s time to talk boundaries.” They may not continue to be so close afterward. But there are still some guards that you can safely put up as you find yourself getting close to someone in the office.

The reason for this is that friendships can make us soft in some of our work skills if we allow them. One study, highlighted in The Atlantic, showed that business partners who found they had a lot in common ultimately made less productive teams. It’s because they weren’t sharpening each other, and were instead relaxing in the ease of their mutual bond.

If you and your work friend can establish an ability to critique and refine each others’ work early on, it’s going to keep you from falling into that trap.

Take Time To Talk

While eight hours casually bouncing Oscar buzz back and forth with a co-worker may seem like “talking,” it’s not –– at least, not the kind of talking you should be doing with a friend. Finding time to talk about non-work topics of self-disclosure is what truly forms the bonds of friendship. Do you need to overshare? Absolutely not, but that doesn’t mean you can’t let someone in on the goings-on of your life.

And if chatting about it in the cubicle is weird, go grab some coffee. It gets you out of that work environment without going as far as to bring someone into full life outside the office.

Enjoy It

Work friendships are a truly great thing. As this Gallup poll shows us, having a best friend at work makes you significantly more likely to feel that your work is being appreciated, that you are being emotionally developed, that your company values you, and that there is an overall commitment to quality.

We’re simple creatures: having friends makes us feel good. Don’t let office relationships go to waste, invest in someone so that they can find that sense of belonging, too.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you had working with a friend go poorly? What are your keys to successfully working with a close friend? Is this writer just projecting after months spent alone working from home? Share your hot takes in the comments below or join the conversation on Twitter.

Peter Swanson
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