We always talk about the importance of friendship, but not about how this fits into our work lives. I’ve often heard that you shouldn’t mix pleasure with business, but is this the same in all workplaces? I used to think so, but having accidentally made friends at work, I have changed my mind.
Going into the working world, I thought I knew how I would navigate the professional circuit. I assumed my working day would consist of me getting to work, plugging my headphones in as I worked away, coming out of my Drake filled reverie only for lunch and to make the occasional cup of tea, whilst making sure I left work at 5 pm on the dot. While I maintained the leaving work at 5 pm on the dot, I found my life at work is much more sociable than I had ever intended.
I had been warned by my mother and a mentor of mine not to make friends at work, that I should keep myself to myself and avoid getting too involved with the social life as it could potentially cause some unnecessary drama and be harmful later on. I have witnessed how mixing your personal and professional lives can make for all sorts of mess, especially after a booze-filled evening, but that’s not to say that a work bestie is all that bad. There are also benefits of having friends at work.
They just get it when it comes to your complaints or issues about your work life. They are there every day and understand what you are experiencing unlike, perhaps, your friends from outside work, to whom you have to explain all the details about a situation or environment they are unfamiliar with. It’s also great to have an ally in the office and someone who looks out for you and helps you out when needed. I’ve had work friends push me to apply for a promotion and that little boost and encouragement helped me realise I had so much more to give. I’ve had help with applications, been given further career advice and support, and been offered a kind ear when it’s just been a long week and I need to talk it out. Just like the support system you have outside in your personal life, I realised it was important to also have one in the workplace too.
Forming friendships at work also means growing your network. We’ve all heard of the phrase “Your net worth is your network”. Expanding your network can help you in terms of your long-term career goals and other opportunities that may come your way. It’s also great if you’re developing relationships with colleagues that are a bit further in their careers with more experience, or a little older than you. The wealth of knowledge and life experience they have can be truly insightful. Yes, it might take for one of you to leave for you both to realise that your friendship only stretched as far as the office walls, but personally, I have nothing against friendships that might just be for that season. I believe all people enter your life for a reason so there’s no harm if a work bestie remains just that.
I have still heeded my mother and mentors advice when it comes to managing these friendships. I think what they were suggesting is making sure you have a good work, play balance. Let’s be honest, it’s pretty difficult to not have some sort of amicable relationship with some of your co-workers, but you have to remember that work is work. While you might feel the need to participate in every office social, maintaining some boundaries is essential as not to get distracted from your work and career goals.
Written by Aisha Rimi