How close should you get to your work colleagues?

Some people spend years in an office without ever really getting to know their colleagues; others dart out the door and down to the pub together as soon as it comes to clocking off time on a Friday.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 29th May 2017, 7:00 am
Updated Sunday, 4th June 2017, 9:38 pm

Doubtless you’ve heard it said that you should keep your social life and work life separate – and perhaps that’s for good reason.

Friendships at work can be a tricky business, say many experts, as it can be difficult to know where to draw the line.

Corrine Mills, managing director of Personal Career Management, urges caution over sharing too much information about yourself with colleagues.

“I think you have to be really careful about boundaries,” she warns. “I know people make good friends or meet their partners at work, but you are there to work.

“You have to be careful about sharing too much information about yourself. I’d be really careful about sharing anything sensitive with anyone at work unless you are very clear why you are doing it.”

Sociologist Dr Jan Yager, author of Friendshifts: the Power of Friendship and How it Shapes Our Lives, says the trick is not to confide in colleagues in the first place.

“Don’t tell a work friend anything that could have an impact on your job or give your colleague power over you,” she says. “Sabotage of promotion may be unintentional, but it will hurt.

“You need to determine what is appropriate to share at work. And work is the crucial word here – that is where you are. Camaraderie is an extra to your job.”

The spilling of secrets to workmates, according to Dr Yager, is something females are more likely to do than males.

“Men learn at an early age never to say or do anything that will derail their rise to the top, and women need to think the same way if they want to climb the ladder,” she says.

Dr Yager’s advice to women is to “be savvy” and “steer away from personal information or strong opinions as much as possible.”

That sounds like sage advice – and yet Brits forge more friendships through work than anything else.

A recent survey found that one in three British workers becomes close pals with someone from work, while almost a third of those polled said they have made the majority of their friends through work.

Dr Yager says it takes three years for any friendship to be properly tested, and that “a workplace friendship” won’t be tested unless one of you has to relocate.

“Be warned,” she adds, “typically friendships at work turn out to be based on convenience.”