5 Must-Know Tips for Working with Your Friends

Originally written by Lindsey Pollak 26 February 2016

We often think about workplace relationships in terms of buzzword-y concepts like “mentor” or “networking.” But most of us realize our work squad should also include workplace friends — someone you can grab lunch with or commiserate over a work fail. I’ve met some great friends at work through the course of my career, particularly in the early years when we were all starting out.

But just like friendships outside of work, friendships with coworkers can get complicated. How can you smoothly navigate the etiquette of workplace friendships? What happens when you’re suddenly your BFF’s manager? I gathered tips about how to be mindful of the friend/work line and successfully blend the personal and professional at work.

Build Friendships Slowly at Work
“While sharing intimate information can help strengthen a relationship, [psychologist Ron] Friedman says it’s best to start with a foundation of shared positive experiences before divulging sensitive information. … ‘Self-disclosure is not something you want to rush into,’ Friedman says. By starting small, sharing incrementally, and slowly moving towards divulging more emotionally sensitive personal information, you can become more confident in sharing truly personal information about yourself, explains Shasta Nelson, author of Friendships Don’t Just Happen and a facilitator of friendships in the workplace.” — Read more at Business Insider.

Manage Your Friends Like You Manage Everyone Else
“If you’ve been promoted and find yourself managing your friend, treat the person as you would anyone else. Don’t single him or her out from the rest of the team with a lighter or heavier workload. Grant the same level of respect you would anyone else when giving criticism, and ask yourself if you’re being harder or more lenient because the employee’s your friend.” — Read more at Office Team.

Watch Your Social Media Interactions
“These days you’re not just deciding to be friends in real life, but also on social media. Which can be tricky. If you’re someone who uses your private social media account to occasionally vent about work, allowing a coworker on your Facebook could be problematic. What if you complain online about someone else who you’re not friendly with, but your friend is? Or what if you brag on Facebook about receiving a raise, only to find out your friend didn’t get one and now there are hard feelings? It’s great to have friends, but giving coworkers access to your private life in person and online is a tightrope.” — Read more at Salary.com.

Don’t Earn Friends Through Gossip
“Sure, gossiping may help you fit in with a certain crowd at work, and many people make the mistake of thinking that they’re making friends when they gossip with them. But getting caught up in the company’s rumor mill will most likely have coworkers steering away from you, and, [Jennifer] Blank [HR manager at McGarrah Jessee] says, will erode the trust that is essential to true likability. People tend to avoid sharing personal information with trash talkers, which means they may not trust you with work-related information that could help you grow in your career.” — Read more at Fast Company.

Carefully Consider the Decision to Hire a Friend
“Unless you’ve worked with someone before, don’t expect to understand how they are in a professional setting. For all you know, the super straight-laced friend who’s always on time can also be an insufferable micromanager. Do yourself a favor, and instead of bringing your best friend on board right away, try to get a sense of how they are in a professional setting. The best way to do this is to work together on a small project, something with low stakes, to see just how committed they are to a project and their style of working. If you’re not impressed or you don’t click, there’s no reason to move forward with a business relationship.” — Read more at Foundr Magazine.

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