For many — nay, most — the workplace is where you spend a majority of your time. Often, you see your co-workers and officemates more than you see your own family and friends, which is why it’s natural to want to establish bonds (and allies). But, when it comes to office friendships, how close is too close? And is it possible for these career companions to every impact your job negatively? These are all questions that will run through your mind at some point as you continue to make and manage friendships in the workplace.
“Having a person to talk to can be really beneficial, and [...] crucial to your happiness as well,” says Sonja Rasula, founder and CEO of The Unique Empire. “If you have an ally it means you've got someone to bounce ideas off of and can test pitch ideas with before presenting them to a larger group or your boss. It also means you can help each other grow by coaching one another before reviews or important meetings, etc. And when you have friends at work, I believe there is a camaraderie that results in better work, more creative output and motivation — which result in more productivity and workplace satisfaction.”
Yes, it’s true that having a pal or two at the office can make navigating the day to day a bit easier. In fact, many of these relationships can become lifelong ones that you cherish for years to come as they blossom. But there are definitely lines that should not be crossed or, at the very least, tread on carefully. To help decipher these lines as well as learn how to take these friendships beyond the 9-5, ahead, top female leaders and CEOs offer tips on how to manage friendships in the workplace.
Find Someone Who Builds You Up
No matter how much you love your job, there are gonna be days that the going gets tough. It’s important to find a work friend who builds you up in these situations and doesn’t kick you when your down. “The workday is long, so to have someone you feel has your back throughout the day, is there to lend an ear, and support you during potentially stressful or frustrating moments is really helpful,” says Zahava Ryzman, founder of designer jewelry company Sarah Chloe.
Nobody knows the importance of this more than Glow Recipe founders Christine Chang and Sarah Lee. Together the two have built a successful K-beauty empire while remaining the closest of friends, which is no small feat. So how do they do it? According to the duo, keeping things positive is key. “During the inevitable low moments, it is so critical that we both keep positive energy and encourage each other,” says Lee. “I like to think of her as my rock, and of myself as hers.”
One important thing to note is that, this encouragement and positivity should be free of any type of competitiveness or jealousy, common factors that can arise among co-workers. “[Sarah and I] see the fact that we each bring diverse perspectives and ideas as a big positive and learning to play off each other’s strengths has been the monumental in bringing Glow Recipe to what it is today,” says Chang. “If you have a work friend who isn’t able to handle productive, open discussion and appreciate what you bring to the table, that’s a red flag.”
Along with stress, unpleasant co-workers and superiors are totally common in the workplace, and it's natural to build a little resentment or irritation. But, falling into negative or gossipy conversations is never a good idea, no matter how close the confidante. “Look out for people who gossip about others,” says Jacey Duprie, editor of Damsel In Dior. “Remember, those who gossip to you will gossip about you.”
Chang seconds this notion: “It’s natural to want to vent your frustrations about your boss or colleagues to your work friends, but always take some time to cool off before bringing it up — office chatter can spread more quickly than you realize.”
Don’t Just Talk About Work
If you’re cultivating a true friendship in the office, making sure you’re able to extend your conversations past the topic of work is crucial. “I avoid being friends with people who only want to talk about work or the industry,” says Duprie. “Yes, I like to discuss work-related things, but I'm also interested in making genuine friendships within the space that aren't just all about how many followers someone has on Instagram. It is very obvious when someone is trying to befriend you to advance their career. Listen to your gut and be leery of trusting those people.”
Keep Some Things To Yourself
As you get closer to people at work, it’s natural to get a bit too comfortable and overshare. No matter how trustworthy or lovely your co-worker might be, steer clear of super confidential and possibly controversial subject matter, as you never know when it will backfire or work against you later. “I personally think it is unprofessional to share salary information along with religion, politics, or family issues,” says Duprie.
Find A Friend Who’s A Safe Place
While there are definitely things to avoid discussing, don’t be afraid to be a bit vulnerable. Within the right confines, share things about your life outside of work, and be sure to do things with your work friends during off-duty hours. This will help establish friendships that last past your career timeline. “If you are true, honest and open with others you will create deeper, more meaningful relationships,” says Rasula. “I think that sharing personal stories and truly getting to know one another can be really positive. It's harder to make friends as an adult since you're at work two-thirds of the time, and so making friends with people at work who become friends outside of work can be really positive.”