We’ve all been there: the first day jitters upon arriving at your new job, eyes darting back and forth to find a familiar face–or anyone who looks remotely friendly–to mitigate your anxiety. We often approach cultivating office friendships with the same immediacy and urgency apply to completing HR forms and going through training,
The workplace can be alienating, which is why we all tend to form alliances early on in our tenure. Someone to whom we can vent when our boss is being annoying; a comrade to buy us shots when we’ve had a stressful week. The truth is that office friendships can be crucial and have a buoying effect if you hate your boss or have a toxic coworker (many of my office friendships have been borne out of these circumstances).
But there’s another side to the coin. Befriending coworkers can have real, long-term consequences, and they’re worth thinking about before you bring out the friendship bracelets.
Even if you decide to make nice with your colleagues, this doesn’t necessarily preclude you from competing against each other down the road. What happens when a new job opens up in your company and you’re both interested? Does your friendship dissolve if one of you gets an offer? When it comes to your career, you shouldn’t have to base your decisions on whether or not your work friend approves.
2. Increased burnout
Burnout happens in any job, but in my experience, it happens a lot faster when you work with your BFF. I once had a colleague who quickly became a close friend, and despite having plenty of shared interests and similar personalities, virtually all our conversations were dominated by office gossip and other trivialities related to work. After just a few months of this, I was so exhausted by the negativity and complaining that it crowded out everything I did enjoy about the job.
If you do have some close friends at work, make a point to clearly separate “work talk” and “non-work talk,” and avoid work talk when you’re outside of the office.
Work friends are not unlike high school friends, especially if they come in cliques. You’ll know it’s a clique because members are around the same age, spend lots of time in each other’s offices, and regularly eat lunch together. They often have the temperament of high schoolers, too, and gossip quite openly about their colleagues.
Sound familiar? This is one of the more perilous consequences of befriending officemates. Once you become involved with (or the subject of) gossip, you’ll inevitably find yourself in the thick of office politics, thereby making some adversaries. This will not only damage your reputation, but also hurt any opportunities you have to grow and network at your company.
4. Fewer promotion opportunities
Sometimes office camaraderie can be distracting, even insular, when it comes to getting a promotion or raise. As I mentioned above, you might be less likely to move into another position if your friend is also interested. But there’s also the concern that having a bestie nearby will cause you to get comfortable and less competitive when seeking advancement at work; always put yourself first if your professional future is at stake.
Do you have an office BFF? How do you avoid letting your friendship take over your career?
Also by Molly: Silicon Valley Engineers Say This One Strategy Will Land You a Dream Job
Related: It’s Your Career, Not Theirs: 5 Tips for Carving Your Own Path
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