Often, there forms a close bond between co-workers that goes beyond the ‘just-colleagues’ relationship to something deep, profound and lasting. Having friends at work gives you one thing to look forward to about your job. And even if you are having a hellish time at work, having friends may smoothen out the difficulties to some extent. An arm extended or a shoulder to cry on... that’s what true friends can do for you!
A full-time job means we spend close to 48 hours or sometimes more in a week at our workplace. We see more of our colleagues than of our partners, children or loved ones.
According to research, 20 per cent of our friends come from our workplace, making it the second most likely source of friendship.
“When I got married and came to Bengaluru, I was totally at sea. The new place, the new surroundings and the absence of friends made me feel depressed for a while. When I began to work, all this changed. I became good friends with my colleagues. Setting up life in a new city became easier, thanks to their advice, help and encouragement,” says H. Kaur a project manager at a reputed company.
Whether you are spreading wings in your career or starting off on a new job, having friends help in transitions and adjustments. And if you don’t have family nearby, your work colleagues can often be a proxy family.
There are scores of such crises where my colleagues became my friends in the true sense of the word. During times of illnesses, deaths in the family, job insecurities and loneliness they were my pillars of support. In hard times like these I realised the true meaning of the statement, “You need togetherness because you don’t always win, and you gotta hang through together.”
Rajesh V, a chartered accountant too echoes the same sentiments. “My friends at work are my family. When I was hospitalised after an accident, they provided food for my family and came to visit me in hospital every day. They came with flowers, cards, books and spread a lot of cheer. And I was up and about in no time,” he says.
A work friend can also offer feedback or a different perspective your family can’t. They might not judge you as your loved ones tend to do at times. Close friends can also be confidants if they are people you can trust.
Most often, these friendships spill over to outside the office too. “We spend some weekends with our husbands and children. Sometimes we go mall-hopping or to the cinema,” says Eleanor Richards, a communications professional.
The concept of a work spouse is also gaining ground in many workplaces. A work spouse is a co-worker of the opposite sex with whom you have a close platonic relationship.
Work friendships can be a little tricky if you don’t know where to draw the line. Here are some ways to find the right balance…
# Your friendship may come under the scanner and colleagues may be jealous about your friendship and spread gossip especially if your friendship is with a person of the opposite sex.
# Allow time for a friendship to grow. Avoid telling your colleague all about your life and problems. Do so only when you trust the other person completely.
# Having one close friend at office might mean that you are isolated from the others. Do not make the friendship too obvious during work times and outside work and do not dwell too much on office gossip.
# You must be open about communication with your friends. If you are ever worried over something the other person said, talk it over. This is the best way to avoid disagreements that can affect your personal and professional lives.
# Try as far as possible not to mix work friends with your other friends. Set boundaries and respect each other’s territory.
Here’s how you can make lasting friends at work…
# Talk and listen – Two important things to make a friendship work is to talk and also to listen. Talking at work is how people get to know each other and if you want people to like you, open up and start talking. A good listener is also a precious asset in friendship. Learn to listen and empathise.
# Join Groups – If you are working in a large organisation there is a possibility that many groups of people may exist. You need to identify the various groups and join one that suits you best.
# Go out – It makes sense, once in a while to ‘do lunch’. If you are part of a huge team, go to lunch at least once a month. Lunch breaks are when people talk about themselves and are uninhibited. It is the most critical part of making friends at work.
# Volunteer – Every relationship is based on give-and-take. Try volunteering for work outside your designated area and do help when it is required of you. They will not only appreciate your efforts but also reciprocate when the need arises. This is a wonderful way to bond.
Like with every relationship in life, friendship at the workplace does come with its disadvantages. Your friend may quit and you may find it difficult to keep in touch. You may both be vying for the same promotion and sometimes you may also get embroiled in office politics.
Life is full of trial-and-error situations, and true friendship does not come easily. It is cultivated over time through the elements of trust, faith and hope.
As George Washington said, “Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence. True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation.”