In the spirit of the approaching U.S. ‘end of year’ holidays (e.g., Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.) where there are often group celebrations, gift celebrations, etc., the topic of “friends at work” is becoming very prevalent.  In some ways, this should be a ‘no brainer’.  After all, across the world there is a long history of family businesses as well as small and large companies co-founded by friends (ie, Airbnb, Warby Parker, Ben & Jerry’s).

Not to mention having people at work that you are close to often makes work more fun, means that you have someone at work who knows you well (ie, work wife or husband) and generally makes the time at work move even faster.

But the reality is that crossing the “friendship” line in the workplace is not always a smart move.  There are several reasons why and they all impact these areas:

  • Decision-making. Many jobs require you to make objective decisions.  But when you have friends at work, it can be difficult to remain completely neutral when they present new ideas or make requests.  You might find yourself caught between doing what’s best for the business versus supporting your friend. And if you supervise your work friend, there’s even more room to have a conflict of interest.
  • ProductivityFriends at work often lead to increased amount of time socializing during work hours rather than handling your job responsibilities.  Obviously, this means that if you are spending time talking or spending time with each other, error rates are prone to increase while productivity decreases, both of which could ultimately jeopardize your job.
  • Professionalism.  Let’s face it, even our best non-work friendships occasionally hit rough patches.  So, we can expect that friendships at work will likely do the same.  At a minimum, this will mean tension and stress not just for you and your “co worker friend”  but also for everyone else around you which can be very disruptive.

So, what should you do?  Proceed with caution.  There are ways to have good, strong, fun, productive work relationships while still maintaining reasonable boundaries between your work and personal lives. Make sure you think through the potential scenarios as well as the pros and cons of crossing the “friend line”  so you can avoid jeopardizing your reputation and results at work.

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