Wishing friends is quick work. But friendship is a slow ripening fruit– Aristotle
Recently some women and men have been approaching the IWRN seeking advice relating to workplace challenges and in particular how to deal with friendships involving their colleagues.
While cordiality is a critical ingredient in the work environment, professionalism is even more important. Your major focus should be working towards achieving your job objectives and performing at optimal levels on time, every time. However, in analysing some of the complaints reaching the network’s desk, the focus is largely on building friendships and ensuring that one is liked and less about job performance. When developing such friendships it is advisable to establish boundaries that demarcate personal and professional distance, particularly in instances when it’s between you and superiors.
There are varying schools of thought which suggest, that your workplace should be related to work only, and avoid developing friendships. While there is some merit within, people also need each other throughout all walks of their lives, and therefore, one must always exercise caution and due responsibility in separating one from the other so as to avoid conflict and poor work relations.
In fact, there are other research studies that have proven that the formation of work teams and even engaging in extra-curricular activities with your work colleagues, increase productivity and strengthen the organisation. According to Beth Azar of the American Psychological Association, “workplace friendships can increase job satisfaction, productivity and job commitment whilst decreasing stress and turnover.”
There are many positives that emanate from the work and friendship duo – there are even stories where marriages emerge from within the workplace. While, on the flip side of the coin, there are those that have left bitter tastes in the mouths of many, because boundaries between work and friendship were not defined.
Despite variances in opinions, some words of caution are necessary. Avoid sharing personal and confidential information about your life with your work colleagues. If, however, your personal circumstances are affecting your work performance, it is best to approach your supervisor and/or HR manager and engage in a private dialogue aimed at arriving at an amicable solution. Given the closeness which you develop with your colleagues, over time, you may develop a greater interest in socialising and that’s fine, but again be cognizant of your boundaries and limits. Be selective in your choices for co-worker/friends and in so doing, consider how social engagement can impact your career either positively and/or negatively. Always scan your work environment before making utterances, and attempt as much as possible to engage in work-related conversations.
The supervisor-conundrum is another common challenge in the workplace which needs special attention and monitoring to avoid blurred lines. It is indeed extremely healthy to establish solid working relationships with your supervisor but the key to maintaining those relationships has to do primarily with one’s ability to separate the two, personal and professional. Maintaining a healthy balance of productivity and cordiality between work and friendships requires the continuous display of professionalism as well as setting clear expectations aimed at supporting that professionalism.
Sandrine Rattan is a communications/branding consultant, author and president of the International Women’s Resource Network (IWRN) Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or contact 283-0318.
She writes a weekly column for Newsday called With Women in Mind.