Balancing Being Friends and Colleagues

By nature of moving into Corporate America, you will begin to develop relationships with your colleagues.  Many of these will be purely professional, some may be romantic, while others may blossom into friendships.  There is a major difference between a purely professional work relationship and friendship with a colleague.  For it to be a true friendship with a colleague, the test is if you can talk about topics outside of work for more than 20 minutes, you are actually friends outside of work.  It can be challenging to understand if you are friends at work or friends.  There may be times you are not on the same page and one party is not interested in being great friends outside of work, but they enjoy the friendship in the office.  These are sticky situations.

For those that are friends both inside and outside the office, how do you balance the fact that you are colleagues and really good friends?  There are a few ways to go about it:

  1. Work at Work.  This means while at work, you only focus on work and do not mix your personal life.  If you are friends with someone outside of the office, this is probably not a realistic scenario as talking about your personal life at work may have led to your friendship.  By keeping clear divisions between work and personal life, you ensure your focus will remain on work
  2. Private.  Being private about your strong personal relationships will ensure neither of you are treated differently.  By maintaining a level of privacy, you will be able to have an outlet in the office where you can talk and vent that others are not aware of.  It also will keep you focused on your work.
  3. Open.  CSU is a big proponent of being open, so this is our recommended approach.  Since you have a connection in the office, use it to your advantage.  If you need to take a 15 minute break and vent, your friend is the perfect one to go to.  If you need an introduction, use your friend as a resource.  Be open with your communication.

The main caveat for balancing being friends and colleagues is not to over share sensitive information.  In Corporate America there are often a lot of trade secrets that must not be released.  Even though you may be best friends, you need to respect the privacy of your company and not share sensitive information.  If you do share this info, you may get yourself into bigger trouble.

Thought Starters

  • What can you do to maintain both a friendship and a work relationship?
  • Have you seen or heard of a situation where someone overshared sensitive information to a friend?  How was it handled?