It is impossible to spend eight hours a day, five days a week (and sometimes weekends), with a group of individuals, and not develop a certain inner world. Our work relationships are a significant factor in how well we perform.

A recent Gallup report suggested that “those without a best friend in the workplace have just a 1-in-12 chance of being engaged.” 

Yet, it is important to understand the differences between notions like ‘friendly’ and ‘friends’, ‘loyal’ and ‘professional’, and ‘alliances’ and ‘biases’. After all, you want to be able to look back and confidently claim that you learned how to build strong bonds that went beyond competition and criticism.

There is a certain spirit to working together that can last for a lifetime worth of collaboration and growth. It is certainly a fruitful endeavor to look forward to.
Yet, it can be tricky to know how to navigate friendships in the workplace. How much should you reach out to your co-workers?

Too much, and you might not get enough work done. Too little, and you stand to miss out on collaboration, overwhelmed by your solo workload.
It goes without saying that personal boundaries are not only relevant but essential. Sharing our deepest secrets, long-term goals or dreams with every other person can be counterproductive.

There is no need to go looking for a ‘best bud’. For instance, if you vented to a teammate that you weren't happy in your current position, and are looking for a new job, and then get a promotion over them and decide to stay, it can lead to resentment and frustration.

When people we are friends with become higher or lower in rank than us, it creates issues with how open, transparent, and authentic we can be. At least up until we arrive at a new normal.

Fresh boundaries are bound to take shape because new roles are to be lived and understood. This is not always pretty or smooth, but it is crucial to learn how to be a supportive colleague, in either case.

It starts by building your own trustworthiness, demonstrating your passion and commitment to work as your primary occupation—because that is eventually the raison d’etre of it all. 

A go-to companion is essential for workdays to feel more breezy. It can be less intimidating to ask a colleague for assistance than running to your boss every time a minor issue crops up.

Remind yourself to set time limits, and keep to them. Know what to keep off-site and off the clock, and remind others of things that can be left to Slack or email, to stop them from becoming distracting drains midday. 

Be aware of your role, and the work limits that come with it. Know that your title could mean you have to be more careful than others, around others or with sensitive documentation.
Friendships that progress naturally in the backdrop of office hustle-bustle, focus on solving for what makes work more efficient and enjoyable. Simply put, they make the worker in us better for it.

It isn’t always about unrelenting support, but consistent and constructive engagement. Receive your workmates as influences that will motivate you to learn, look for you to probe and instruct, lead and inspire, and you, in turn, will too. 

It is critical to balance our investments in the pacts we form, and the affinities we build. Fostering each other’s creative curiosities can evolve into a wider understanding of the company, the industry, and all kinds of associated opportunities internally and otherwise. 

The real metrics to eventually measure and grow are your self-discipline, credibility, and most importantly discernment on how and when to step in, or take a step back out of professionalism, kindness, or both. 

Shivani Govind is a branding professional who has been exploring people and cultures for almost a decade. She likes to gather her myriad adventures into pocket pieces of art, musings, and learnings to share with all who share her wonder and curiosities.

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