Can you be friends with your co-workers?

by Nicole Duquete

Getting along with the people you work with certainly makes the day more pleasant and go by a lot quicker, but sometimes it is difficult to know if you’ve crossed the line between being just co-workers and being friends.

Recently, I have had a couple of co-workers whom I’ve gotten along with really well. It was a new experience for me to work with people my own age, with similar interests, and with whom I could talk freely about my life outside of work. At first, I wasn’t sure how to react to the situation. I wasn’t sure if it was okay to be seen discussing non-work related things at work, and I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to ask someone I was friendly with to do work-related tasks for me. Luckily, my office is a relaxed environment, and I quickly found that it was easy to combine the professional and personal sides of my relationships with my co-workers. I still wonder, though, what the difference is between being friends and being colleagues who are friendly.

I think the difference lies in whether or not you spend time together outside of work. I was wary of crossing that imaginary line because I thought that, even if we were not at work, the experience of spending time with a co-worker would make my time off feel like work. But, the first time I crossed the line occurred organically. She needed a new outfit for a job interview, so we went shopping. Neither of us found it to be a forced, nor awkward experience. It gave us a chance to vent about work in a neutral setting, and to bond over shopping – the universal female bonding experience. Spending time together outside of work made it clear that we were no longer just co-workers, but now that my friend has started her new job, and we are no longer co-workers, it is clear that we have a true friendship that simply sprang from a work relationship.

My friendship with my colleague developed naturally, but what about when a co-worker makes unwanted advances towards friendship? Another of my co-workers, who I am not particularly fond of, has frequently attempted to friend me on Facebook, and to get assignments which would have us working closely together. I have done my best to continually be polite and pleasant to her, but I have still ignored her friend requests, and dodged working with her as much as possible. It reminds me how lucky it is to be able to develop a friendship with a co-worker because personal compatibility has nothing to do with hiring practices, so one lousy co-worker is a fair trade to find one good one.