Work Friends Can Be Tricky: 5 Tips to Make These Relationships Stick


Last year, I warned you about six work friends to keep on your radar. These colleagues are frenemies that could potentially harm your shot at future promotions, pay raises, and other advancements in the workplace. Despite your personal feelings, you’ll find it quite impossible to avoid coworkers. There are times when you must play nice even when you despise them. It’s called professionalism.

Although I warned you about toxic work friends, I would be remiss if I did not mention the importance of cultivating beneficial relationships on the job. Forming bonds in the workplace can be challenging and even frustrating due to heavy workloads, back-to-back deadlines, and overall stress on the job. However, researchers say, friendships at work ultimately lead to increased productivity in the company from the individual to the organizational level.

Workers in their 20’s and 30’s spend more time at work than at home or in leisure environments. You might as well find a way to make your time enjoyable by forming an alliance. Here are five ways to grow your influence and maintain workplace friendships without presenting distractions or diminishing the value of your work.

1. Give Credit Where Credit is Due

Compliment your coworkers. Positive reinforcement doesn’t have to come from the top. Take a moment to let your colleagues know that they are appreciated. According to a Gallup poll, people who have a best friend at work are 43% more likely to receive positive feedback and praise in a standard work week. Competition is fierce in every organization, don’t let it stop you from encouraging your teammates. The more you appear as a positive light, the likelier you are to find people who will respect both you and your work.

2. Be helpful and know when to ask for help

In order to grow within your company, it is extremely vital for you to recognize your weakness and find ways to improve. The best way to do this is to find a coworker with expertise in your weak areas and ask them for help. Admit to your shortcomings and ask for their guidance. Even if you both started in the same year and work in the same position, there are opportunities to learn new processes and skills.

In reverse, be unafraid to offer wisdom. However, only give advice where it is requested. Having confidence in your capabilities will garner admiration. Remember, your value with the company will not diminish because you brought new ideas and execution to the table. More than anything, your innovation will make you more likable with your managers and teammates. Your work friends will appreciate you for taking an interest in seeing them succeed.

3. Be Genuine in Your Actions

When you present yourself to colleagues with no strings attached, you will build trust.  The most valuable currency on any team is trustworthiness. Be honest in why you want to become friends with certain colleagues. Do you share common interests? Do your backgrounds align? You should be strategic in building friendships but present your best self, especially with new employees. Starting a new job can be scary, even for the most seasoned individual. Initiate the bond with wholeheartedness. First impressions are not only lasting in job interviews, but they are also a determining factor in the tone of your working relationships.

4. Start An Employee Resource Group

Thousands of companies have employee resource groups for women, minorities, and disabled individuals, just to name a few. Ask your employer for permission to start one. These employee-ran groups promote diversity and inclusion while also sharing the company’s mission and organizational practices. You’ll meet like-minded individuals and many of your working relationships will become real friendships.

5. Arrange After-Work Social Events

Bust out of the break room and go beyond the watercooler chatter. As the title suggests, happy hour is a great time to unwind in a relaxing atmosphere. Survey your work friends about their favorite activities and gauge their interest as to whether they’re interested in spending time with you outside of work. You’ll get a chance to learn about them on a more personal level, with booze of course, which might be the undoing of preexisting barriers you encounter at work.

If you’re feeling skeptical about drinking with your colleagues, invite them to cool local events that align with your shared interests.

No matter how you approach making new friends, take your time and watch these new relationships develop naturally. Having a work friend isn’t merely a way to survive a boring work day, instead, you forge everlasting commonalities that will follow you wherever you might land in your respective careers.

Tyler Young

Tyler Young is a former news producer turned humor writer from South Carolina dedicated to narratives about women of color and sharing life hacks for women daring to live out their purpose. She's currently campaigning for a final N'Sync world tour.