Have you ever asked a child “Did you make any friends at school today?” The reason we ask this question of children nervously is because we know that school without friends can be a lonely and hostile place. With friends and the other hand, it can be really good fun. And so you can work. But what are some of the common pitfalls that we can come across with friendships at work? Are work friendships a good idea, or a terrible idea?
With International Day of Friendship coming up on the 30th of July, today’s topic is about friendships at work. We’re going to be talking about: can you make friends at work? Is there benefits to having friends at work? Can you be friends with your boss? How do you make boundaries with your work friends? And last of all, if you wanting more work friends, how do you actually do that? So let’s get stuck into today’s episode about work friendships, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
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Are work friendships a good idea, or a terrible idea? With International Day of Friendship coming up on the 30th of July, today’s topic is about friendships at work. We’re going to be talking about: can you make friends at work? Is there benefits to having friends at work? Can you be friends with your boss? How do you make boundaries with your work friends? And last of all, if you wanting more work friends, how do you actually do that? So let’s get stuck into today’s episode about work friendships, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
International Day of Friendship was proclaimed in 2011, by the UN General Assembly. With the idea that friendship between people, country, cultures, and individuals can inspire peace efforts and build bridges between communities.
If you have children, or if you’ve ever been a child, which that should cover pretty much everybody. You’ve probably heard the question. Did you make any friends at school today? The reason we ask this question of children nervously is because we know that school without friends can be a lonely and hostile place.
With friends and the other hand, it can be really good fun. And so you can work. But what are some of the common pitfalls that we can come across with friendships at work? Let’s get into the first one.
Are friends at work a good idea? In 2018 Gallup published a research article that illustrated that those who have best friends at work are seven times as likely to be engaged in their jobs.
Lighthouse also refers to findings from LinkedIn that especially your younger staff age, 18 to 24, having friendships at work, improve their happiness, motivation, and productivity. So if having friends at work has such a good idea, why is it such a hot topic and can be frowned upon?
A question I’m often asked, “can you be friends with your boss?” And my answer is this: friendly, but not friends. It depends a little bit on the type of business you have and the number of staff that you have. But there are a few challenges that come with being friends with your staff. Particularly if you have a larger team.
Which leads into boundaries at work. So if you are the manager, remember, first and foremost, there are responsibilities that come with it. You are their manager. And particularly if you have a larger team, there is going to be favoritism, whether that’s intentional or not.
Sometimes people expect because there’s a friendship that they will get inside information. Which can be really damaging to your role as a leader. You might know personal information with staff, that’s really important to stay confidential.
Early in my career, I worked in human resources and I really struggled to find the boundary between personal and work. I really didn’t want to make any friends at work because I was concerned that if I knew something that was happening in the business, for example, if there was going to be redundancies, I would really struggle to have a social barbecue with that person on the weekend, and then be able to fulfill my role during the week.
So it was a personal decision I had made that it was going to be too much of a challenge for me to maintain both. I personally had kept my work and my private life extremely separate.
Maybe, this sounds like a great idea and it certainly had its benefits, but there was one unexpected challenge with that. Because I never shared anything personal, people really struggled to connect with me and find me a person that they could confide in, which was really important in my role in Human Resources. So it took me some time and some experience to find that line of friendly, but not friends.
It’s something that’s become a lot easier through my career to make friends at work and to make those boundaries. But I think it is more through experience and through my own self-confidence to set those boundaries and not be concerned that I might not be liked. But also set those boundaries early on, not after the fact.
So, how do you create friends at work? As well as be friendly, but not friends with your boss, and create some boundaries to make this work well.
A couple of things you can do. One is to set up the expectation upfront. And I talk about this in all areas of leadership.
You can set some time limits or be clear with your work friends that work as your top priority. And be mindful of time and topic when chatting with your colleagues. Let them know that sometimes things are better left unsaid until your offsite and off the clock. Or some things are better left unsaid at all.
If you asked a question about something that you have private information about. Be prepared to explain to that person that’s something that you cannot share with them due to your position. Some other ways you can make friends at work. Suggest a work event outside the office. If you meet in person or something social to do virtually. Don’t just leave it to your leader or to human resources to create that social connection. If you haven’t already suggest that maybe do a happy hour or a team lunch. Or perhaps a more casual opportunity for colleagues to get to know each other. I know someone that would frequently say that there was a trivia night coming up. Or something that was local in walking distance from work to make it easy for people to join, but not feel like they had to stay too long.
Building those small social connections can make work a much more enjoyable place. It can also be small things like going for coffee runs or picking a time to have lunch together. Sometimes a quick walk is an easy way to start a conversation. If you’re not sitting opposite of another person and you’re shoulder to shoulder, it can be a lot more comfortable to have a conversation that way. Sometimes I’ll suggest to leaders to have walking one-on-ones because it can be an easy way to have some conversations that are less uncomfortable.
And finally this tip is for work, but also in life, it’s just show interest in their interests. You can use clues like photos on their desk, or how they’ve got their home office set up. Little pieces of information you can collect to chat about your interests with your coworkers. Just don’t be too creepy about it okay. Often I’ll jot down. If they say they have something important coming up or something of interest. So it jogs my memory to ask them how it’s going. How did that event go or how did your kid’s concert go?
It’s a great way to build connection and also build that friendship at work.
So to sum up today’s podcast episode for International Friendship Day. Having friends at work can make a positive difference. You can be friends with your boss, but I would recommend friendly, more so than friends. Because it is important to be able to set those boundaries as the boss or the leader, particularly, if you have a larger team. Boundaries are really important, and if you can set those boundaries upfront, so people know what to expect, it makes it so much easier to maintain over time.
When you’re working in a workplace, whether that’s in-person or virtual, if you feel that you are friendly or friends with your colleagues, it makes it so much more enjoyable. We spend so much of our life at work and with our work colleagues. So the best thing is to be able to have a great interaction with people.
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