One study posits that the average person will spend 90,000 hours at work – to put that into perspective, that’s 10 years. So yes, if you don’t work alone, it’s a good idea to befriend the people you’ll be seeing for all these hours for the sake of both your personal and professional life. It means not just a positive work environment and reduced work stress but also job security and opportunities for career advancement whether you work at a memory care facility or a law firm.
How do you toe the line between professional and appropriate to befriend your coworkers? Here are some tips.
Look for Common Ground
One of the easiest ways to befriend anyone, including a co-worker, is by finding common ground – something to bond over and build a friendship on. Keep in mind that this requires effort and genuine interest, as it’s pretty difficult to fake interest for a long period of time. Imagine having to remember white lies years down the line.
Here’s how to really find common ground:
- Ask questions about interests you’ve observed over time – such as a kind of book they often read
- Share your own interests – talk about your favorite tv show or your knitting
- Participate in team building like work retreats, team lunches, or even happy hour outings
- Join work-related clubs or committees and volunteer for group projects
Few things can damage any chances of being friendly with a co-worker as fast as engaging in workplace gossip. And not only does it facilitate an unfriendly work environment, but you could also get sued for defamation.
So, how do you handle gossip at work to avoid alienating potential friends? Try:
- Redirecting the conversation to things like a work assignment, a new tv show, or even food
- Offering a different perspective or alternative explanation as a way to dispel the rumors, especially if you have the facts
- Keeping any such information confidential instead of sharing and further spreading it
- Looping in a superior or HR if things escalate
Befriending anyone takes time, but perhaps even more so when it comes to coworkers. The workplace is not the most conducive place for friendships after all because of things like work stress, competition, and professional boundaries.
So, here are some tips for being patient when trying to befriend your co-workers:
- Don’t knock small gestures. Saying hello and thank you or passing helpful notes are important steps to a deeper friendship
- Be consistently friendly and approachable
- Always be mindful of boundaries and the fact that many people are introverts or simply uninterested in being friends with a co-worker
- Don’t take things personally. A cold co-worker may be dealing with personal or even work-related problems
Having a friendly relationship with your co-workers is often ideal so try to find common ground, avoid workplace gossip, and be patient in an effort to make this happen.