May 26, 2011 | relationships

Are Your Work Mates Your Real Mates?

How intertwined are your work and professional life? Do you go for drinks after work with your office mates? Oh sure, we all want to make out like we love the people we work with and since we spend a great deal of our lives around them, it’s pretty essential for our survival, so we don’t totally lose it and go on an office rampage. But weather you’re genuinely friendly with work pals or just faking the funk to make it through the day, is it wise to buddy up with the competition?

See, that’s what we tend to forget – that are coworkers are in fact, our competition. So while it’s all fun and games while you’re pal-ing it up, what happens when promotion time rolls around? You may have been friends with the most genuine of reasons, but the other person may have been just gathering information to use against you. Did I just get a bit Bourne Identity on your ass?

Case in point: in a previous job I had, which I hated and didn’t really care about so probably isn’t the best example to use here but I’m going there anyway – they would have ‘socials’ once a month where everyone who worked in your district would get together. These things were compulsory, which already didn’t go down well with me because personally, I feel going home after work should be compulsory. As nice as my coworkers were, it was all I could do to get out of bed in the morning to get there, nevermind have to keep up the pretense of actually enjoying that environment (a pretense which I barely kept up in the first place).

I say all that to say this: these ‘socials’ while yes, on some level, build a sense of teamwork, also blur the lines between work and life. Take away the desks and throw in a free bar and one could almost think  you’re just hanging out with friends. On one particular occasion, an area manager, clearly reaping the benefits of the aforementioned free bar, was found towards the end of the night laying atop the bar allowing people to do shots from her chesticles. You cannot possibly expect me to take you seriously in a boardroom after I’ve seen that.

In this era of oversharing, it’s considered completely normal for work life and home life to blend. We’ll add all our colleagues on Facebook and think nothing of those hangover updates and embarrassing pictures. We’ll gladly let them follow us on Twitter and read our every mumbling thought. But whether you agree with it or not, employers are stalking Facebook pages of potential job candidates – how you conduct your everyday life has an impact on your work life and your online life is giving it all away.

There are those who don’t mind, or even actively encourage that work/life mix, but if you’re looking for career advancement, is it actually advisable to keep the two completely separate? One thing’s for sure, getting that work/life balance right is a balancing act indeed.

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17 Comments

Sally Todd

Good call! I have had my fingers burnt on more than one occasion for what I thought were harmless comments on Facebook, only to be read and sadly misinterpreted and reoorted to managers by work colleagues who I thought were my genuine friends. Think carefully about what you write and even more carefully about who you include as friends in your online life! And as you quite rightly put it beware of buddying up with the competition.

Ms Victoria Jane/Ruby

I have 2 facebooks for this exact reason.

One for Family and work/School people, one for friends. I have never been ashamed of who I am or what I do – but I got sick (in a job VERY like the one you describe above) of collegues I dont care about questioning my social life, activities etc and thought why bother. Facebook is too untrustworthy to use special privacy settings they change it every 5 seconds so I I created a new profile!

Some people get to have both, most don’t and that works fine for me. I think it also helps me in real life to ascertain boundaries with people, as in which account I’d put them on is a good indicator of how far I should let them into my life.

I’ve had a lot of close friends at work, but they tend to stay in work and generally after I have left the Job its pretty rare to see them again… I dont know if I am a weirdo when I say this, but I feel colleagues are like family and schoolmates, you do not get to choose these people like you do your friends, sometimes your pretty lucky and they are nice enough, but in the end its my friends I want to spend my time with….

Anyway xx

EmmOhhEnnTeeWhy

Where I used to work they used to call me antisocial because as soon as the clock struck 5.30pm I was out. From the minute I got there I told them we are not friends we are colleagues and we should not confuse the two. When I finish work I go to chill with family & friends. Now I found my self making friends with a few people but I noticed that they lived in the same area or not far from me, or we already had a few friends in common. Things like Facebook I think are to blame cos a lot of people are what I call “Beggin’ friend”. Instead of looking for quality, they were looking quantity. I never used to add anyone from work on to my Facebook as a rule just the people I knew. To this day I still have a long list of ex co-workers who I didn’t add. I used to see first hand people talking behind someone’s back then sat down smiling with them chatting about someone else. Then they would have the nerve to try add me on Facebook…….”Errrr Nah”. Now where I used to work everyone used to add everyone….and what I found was that one lady in particular had a bit of a hard day……and decided to document this on her Facebook status. I think she put words to the effect of “I can’t stand this job, why is this company is so rubbish”. One of her colleagues who she had added on to FB as her friend had seen this printed the screen and took it into work. Needless to say when she came to work she was taken into a disciplinary and was given a warning. The fact of the matter is we don’t know these people and if it wasn’t for work you would walk past most of them on the street. So I don’t think the 2 worlds should mix unless you find someone who is a genuine friend, but these are rare.

Olivia

I have mixed feelings about this topic. I’ve met some of my best friends at work – only a handful, admittedly, but some of the people I consider to be lifelong friends nevertheless. And since moving jobs we’re still friends (in real life, not just on Facebook!)
However I take your point about not adding colleagues on Facebook, especially when you’ve just joined a company. I’m wary as my boss is my Facebook friend, so I certainly wouldn’t post anything incriminating or ‘anti-work’. but I’m not the type to bitch and moan on Facebook anyway to be honest.

The Jaded NYer

I do not socialize w/work folk. Work is work, home is home. I don’t let them know when it’s my birthday and I try to go off on my own to have lunch. On occasion I have broken this rule if a coworker is just oh-so-cool, but that’s rare. I mean, I’m friendly with folks but it’s not like we’re exchanging phone numbers or anything!

Anti-social? Probably. But I’m here to do a job, not make best friends for life. GIMME MY CHECK! lol

Claire

Yes, I’ve learnt to be careful about that stuff, but socialising is necessary because – in PR – we need to be a good team so I understand where they come from with that.

Jacqueline

Thought provoking post.I spent years in a “back-office” function within an American Investment bank in London. I would easily work 70 hours a week and really cringed when they had social events because I felt the whole process was contrived and false. From my point of view, I valued my time away from the office and did not need another reason to spend time with my colleagues where the topics of conversation were limited to work and employees.
These social events were an opportunity not necessarily to “make friends” but to network with the decision makers so that when it came to promotion day – these people knew who you are and could tick the box.
I say colleagues because that is exactly what they are and there are some (worse than others) that will do anything to get ahead and that includes destroying any trust or loyalty you may have built up with them in the past. I would be very sceptical about calling any work colleague a friend but I have had to learn the hard way!

Cat

Funnily enough, the job I have at the moment is probably the one in which I’ve socialised the least with my colleagues – not really through deliberate intent, but just because that’s how it’s panned out.

I’ve always kept a bit of a distinction between colleagues and friends – I tend to socialise-but-not-let-them-too-far-into-the-boundaries – but there are people that have crossed the line from one into being firmly the other.

Most notably, my other half.

Tyrone M.

It depends on the environment…some folks I work with are worth becoming friends with. Others, hell no! And yes, some of these folks are your competition, but as long as I do my work, I should be fine. Mostly.

However, when it comes to social networking, I limit what I say severely. Most of my co-workers don’t follow me on twitter. Either way, I censor myself heavily and don’t discuss work matters online since it usually leads to misery somehow.

Jen @JenLittleBird

I kinda agree with both sides of this debate. I’ve made friends at every place I’ve worked, and they’re friends I’ve kept despite moving on. One of these friends was my line manager at our previous workplace – we were close when working together and we’re probably even closer now. But I think this is quite an unusual situation – in other jobs I’ve had, managers have been friendly and sociable but always within the boundaries of work situations. I’ve never added any of my managers (apart from that one) on Facebook, I don’t have their mobile numbers or personal email addresses.

I think the test of a colleague friendship is when you cease to be colleagues. When you no longer see people on a daily basis, when you can’t share office gossip over the water cooler or bitch about your boss, what’s left? if you still have things to talk about and still make time to see each other, that’s a real friendship. I’m lucky enough to have a few ex-colleagues I now count as ‘real life friends’.

Employers checking your social network profiles is a whole other topic. The things I see posted to Facebook, by people who have no concept of privacy settings… my gah.

Rachelerella

I totally agree with not mixing the two. I am a Manager of someone who is the same age as me and I would not encourage to go out and socialise with her. I mean how am I supposed to portray a managing figure when she’s seen me fall over in my drunkeness – so it’s better to have a divide between the two!

On the other hand, at my last job I gained a few friends and we still meet up and are genuine friends however, I too did get burned by another colleague here and I will be careful to not be so open with colleagues in the future.

Amma // Beyond Beyond

Some of my best friends were made at work. Some of my best enemies were made at work – I don’t worry about my too much facebook as there is little of interest. But, even with the little I do have on there,there are plenty of people who I would never allow access to my profile, but that is mainly because if I don’t trust you in real life, why would I trust you in digital life?

Lizzy Lips

I’ve found myself questioning my own attitude towards this. I used to be of the school of thought that work is work, life is life. The two were very seperate. If you knew me at work you would never have guessed what I was like once I stepped out the office. I had a very professional persona that could not be broken. There was no way of knowing the ‘real’ Lizzy. I have come to realise however that you spend more time with the bores in the office then you do with your own friends and family… and that maybe I should embrace this and make the most of the situation. I have always had the odd person at work that I could actually consider as friends, but I think the fact of the matter is that we are thrust together with these people we did not choose to spend all this time with them like we do with our genuine friends. It actually paines me that I spend more time with my discusting, burping, farting, moaning boss then I do my burping, farting, ray of sunshine in my life boyfriend. I think now I’m starting to get the balance right – not being so stand offish that people don’t want to talk to me in the office but also knowing that a lot of these people are complete utter freaks that I would cross the road to avoid in real life and that just cos we share an office doesn’t mean I have to pretend to want to socialise with them.

Thankfully I’m the youngest by a mile in my office so I can just use my youth as an excuse as to why I don’t want socialise with frumpy aging loonies!

Nat

V timely for me! I’m spending lots of time as I build up a new business networking. I just spent an entire weekend raising money for charity with my new contacts which was…fun. But so very draining.
I’ve met some of my best friends through work in the past – I’ve always bonded with people who think corporate life is bull. But you have to accept that these are few and far between, and anyone you have to directly compete with at work is someone you shouldn’t get too close to. Until you’ve moved jobs, that is.

Duck

If you really love your job/care about what you do, then your colleagues aren’t your competition – you want to work with them for a common goal. Then friendships develop naturally and are beneficial to the work environment.

Lissy

All of my closest friends I have met through work, purely because when I stayed in this city after university the only people I knew initially were people I worked with. I now live with someone that I work with too. The difference is that we work in an office of over 2000 people, we are not in the same department, so it is highly unlikely that we will ever be going for the same position or be working on something that over laps.

It’s pretty good as it means I always have a lunch buddy, and we’re pretty good (although not all the time!) at keeping the work chat to a minimum when not in the office.

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