Office friendships: Where do you draw the line?

Having trouble balancing professionalism and friendship with your co-workers? Follow our guide to navigating those tricky work situations.

By Chantel Guertin

Office friendships: Where do you draw the line?
No matter how much you love your job, if you don't get along with your coworkers, you're bound to be dissatisfied. It's natural to want to become friends with your colleagues. But how do you build these friendships while maintaining professionalism in the workplace? Here's a look at three common office scenarios:

1. Joining a gym with your coworkers
What better way to quit eating at your desk than to exercise through lunch? But before you sign up, think of how this will affect the office dynamic. How will your boss and other coworkers react to this clique and your shortened availability during the day? A simple solution is to restrict your visits to the gym with this group to twice a week. This will be less disruptive to your work schedule, while combining social acceptance without sorority-like membership. And always leave office gossip out of the locker room.

2. Going for drinks after work
After-work socializing is a great way to become better acquainted with coworkers. But what if the occasional drink after work turns into a regular event you don't always have time for? Refusing to socialize can make you an outcast, and insider information is often traded after hours. "Friendships can benefit your career. Friends may help you get a job, inform you of a new position, or even bring you a new customer," says Dr. Jan Yager, author of Friendshifts.

However, don't let the casual setting and presence of alcohol diminish your professionalism. Even though you're off work, you should remain on guard. The best move is to be non-committal. Make alternate plans every once in a while, or have a reason to leave after only one drink. This will give you just enough time to socialize without getting into trouble, and keep your ears open but not burning.

3. Socializing with coworkers on weekends
Once you arrange to see a coworker on the weekend, you've crossed the line from colleagues to friends. While this may be an ideal social situation, try to keep the relationship casual and free of office-related conversation. According to Dr. Yager, casual friendships are preferable to close or best friendships in the business world. Going to a movie, play or concert is a great way to get to know someone because the situation naturally shifts the conversation away from work and towards a new interest.

Weekends tend to show a different side of people than is evident during the week, and most people have long left thoughts of the office, gossip and politics behind.

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