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Why can't we be friends?

By Suchita-Parikh-Mundul
October 10, 2014 09:32 IST
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To befriend or not to befriend co-workers? 

Read on to find out how you can maintain a hassle-free relationship at the workplace.

Should you make friends at work?Offices were built so office politics would have a place to play out."

Though this was a wry statement made on the sitcom Will and Grace, there is truth to it.

Where there is human interaction, politics is bound to be there.

The more opposing the individual personalities, the more diabolical politics will get.

And with a place of work being about employee performance and company profit, competitiveness and all its devilish accompaniments --- such as half-truths, one-upmanship, sabotage and what-nots -- may well come into play.

So it's a given that the office space is likely to be an unholy weed-infested cesspool of evil.

Yet, the office is also the place we spend a good part of our day -- and therefore, our lives.

Should you turn to a colleague for friendship?

Should you let your guard down with them?

Are they safe to confide in?

More importantly, is there such a thing as a true friend at a workplace? Or is there just evil lurking in the shadows? 

Here are some guidelines to help you through the minefield of workplace friendships.

Be picky like Goldilocks

Competition is the devil-maker, but if you're vigilant in your choosing, you can have a healthy relationship with a colleague.

Graphic designer Swati Barge says, "I'm picky about who I share things with. I'm close with a colleague from the accounts department, and keep cordial relations with the rest. It’s just safer.
I think being friends with someone in a different department is easier than one with someone in your own department. It’s also difficult to separate a work-related argument from the relationship as resentment tends to seep in,” she confides.

Steer the friend-‘ship’ clear

However, it's not impossible to maintain a good relationship with a colleague, even from the same department as you.

"It takes effort on both your parts to separate your professional relationship from your personal friendship. You have to be able to keep them separate and leave work conflicts aside. 

Whatever the issues are – whether you don’t see things eye to eye, or are vying to head the same project, or are competing for a promotion -- both have to be able to keep aside all these issues. This is imperative for a healthy friendship,” reiterates counsellor Deepali Bhatt.

Only fools rush in

Like any other relationship, let a friendship grow organically.

"Don't rush into making a new colleague your best friend," advises banker Ruchi Savla.

"I once made the mistake of opening up about my boyfriend problems to a colleague I had known for a month. Next thing I knew, the entire office was privy to my love life!" she says.

"She was new to the company, so I'm guessing she used my information as a way to chat up the team and get 'in'.

I’ve become much more careful about trusting colleagues with intimate stuff now," Savla adds.

Even if your personal details aren't all that juicy, if you’re not keen on becoming fodder for idle gossip mills, don’t make yourself vulnerable.

Be smart about what you share with whom.

After 9 to 5, it’s ta-ta, goodbye

"I don't know how others stand on socialising after-hours with colleagues, but I prefer to keep work and my personal life separate," shares copywriter Raymond Desai.

"Work dinners are one thing, but once I’m done with the workday, I leave it -- and colleagues -- behind, and unwind with my buddies. I’m already spending nine hours a day at work. I need my space...some time away from it all."

If this strikes a chord with you, make sure to separate business from pleasure.

To friend or not to friend

Superheroes hide their identities for a reason -- to ensure their professional life doesn't encroach on their personal life and vice versa.

In the era of Facebook, we don’t need to be superheroes to achieve this feat.

Entrepreneur Paul Rebello shares, "I've created two separate Facebook accounts -- one for business and one for my personal use. That way, I don’t have to think twice about ‘friend’ing a new business contact. There’s no tension of friends tagging me in posts that could give clients the wrong impression," he says.

"And if I've had a bad day, I can vent without worrying about the wrong people reading my status and costing me business!" he adds.

So if you have one social media account, monitor your activity carefully to maintain your privacy -- and yes, secure your job.

Make this your guide to making and maintaining friendships at work.

Go ahead and make a work pal. But remember, befriend wisely.

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