How important is friendship in the workplace? Do you have to befriend everyone? Is it okay to not be friends and just be co-workers?
Finding a Balance
Dear Finding a Balance:
Most people consider only one or two people at work as friends (and sometimes no one is considered as close as a personal friend would be). The rest are work colleagues, coworkers, fellow employees or mere acquaintances. The size of the business, type of business and the workplace culture makes a big difference in how emotionally close one gets to those in the business.Sometimes a workplace is so friendly that work doesn’t get done! Instead of feeling focused on doing the work, the focus is on feeling good about each other. That can be a big problem.On the other hand, sometimes people are so focused on work that the commonplace courtesies and efforts to smooth out conflict and communication issues are missing. That can be a big problem too. So, balance is very importance! I wonder if you are asking your questions because of a work situation in which you are involved. If so, the following thoughts might help you develop an answer for your specific situation.How important is friendship in the workplace? It’s good feeling to have friends and often that adds to work environment for everyone. But, one can be an effective employee and not be as close to anyone as the term “friend” involves.Do you have to befriend everyone? You have to make an effort to be friendly and courteous to everyone, with the goal of improving communications and being a good citizen in the workplace. But, you do not have to be a friend to everyone (and probably couldn’t be) nor should you spend time cultivating friendships to the exclusion of getting work done.Is it okay to not be friends and just be coworkers? Certainly. In fact, it is very doubtful that everyone wants to be everyone else’s friends anyway. Most people want to work around those who are credible, knowledgeable, skillful, good communicators and who are able to have a variety of good interpersonal relationships—from friendship to internal customer to coworkers to work-acquaintance.When someone is told they are not friendly at work, it usually doesn’t refer to them being friends with someone or with everyone. It refers to them being curt, isolated, not participating or acting strange to the point that others feel uncomfortable around them.Most employees, as they mature, learn how to achieve a balance between being more concerned about friendships than work and being obsessively focused on work to the exclusion of even good communications. If you wonder about it for yourself, talk to your manager or boss and see if you have achieved the balance he or she wants for all employees–or if there is some other issue you need to consider and improve.Best wishes to you with this issue!
Tina Lewis Rowe