Skip to content

Friendships With Coworkers: How Close Is Too Close?

Navigating The Murky Waters of Workplace Friendships

We've all heard the terms “work wife” or “work husband” — both titles reference close relationships with coworkers, and these relationships can be a key part of feeling happy with where you work.

Relationships are important, but work relationships involve some more finesse. Here are some workplace-friendly relationship strategies for how to interact with coworkers that will allow you to spend quality time with your colleagues while maintaining a professional reputation.

Assess your office's culture

Every office has its own culture. Some workplaces are formal and professional. Others are more casual. To determine where your workplace sits on the spectrum, spend some time observing the way people interact with each other. Watching what others do will give you a good benchmark for what's considered appropriate and inappropriate.

Decide how close you'd like to be with your coworkers

Ultimately, the closeness of your work relationships is up to you (and your coworkers, of course.) That means you'll have to decide on things like whether you'll befriend officemates on social media or if you'll spend time together outside of the office.

Set boundaries early on

I urge you to think about how close you'd like to be with your coworkers because it leads right into another important part of workplace relationships: setting boundaries.

Boundaries absolutely must be set to keep both your working and social relationships healthy. For example, one of your boundaries might be, “No texting about work after 7pm,” or “I'm going to keep my work friends separate from my other friends.” If a coworker doesn't respect your well-intentioned and carefully thought-out boundaries, it's not worth developing a friendship with them.

Take things slow

A falling out with a coworker-turned-friend can be brutal, which is why it's important to give these relationships time to develop.

Taking the time to get to know someone will help you determine whether this person is a trustworthy friend with sound judgment. Sharing your work-friend boundaries with them is a great place to start when you're learning more about someone, too.

If you start to sense that a relationship with a coworker is deteriorating, try to address things head-on to minimize damage. As in any other relationship, communication is a requirement.

Never gossip about your fellow coworkers

As close relationships develop, it can become tempting to cross certain boundaries, and gossiping is one of the easiest boundaries to cross.

If you want to maintain professionalism, don't fall into the gossip trap. You never know if your words will be shared with someone else or if the relationship with your workplace confidant will turn sour.

Don't let the possibility of conflict deter you from getting to know your coworkers, though. If you follow the tips here, these friendships can help you get through tough spots in your career, make you more excited to go to the office on weekdays, and improve your life in other substantial ways.