Friends at Work

By Paula Santonocito

Friends working togetherDo your friends at work help or hinder your career? Do you sometimes get caught up in friendship struggles when the focus should be on work? If so, this SMW Career article is for you.

Good Friends, Great Times

In a perfect world, you would love your job. The daily tasks would be inspiring, with opportunity for growth and advancement, and everyone at work would want the best for you. Your colleagues wouldn’t only be coworkers; they would be comrades who support your career.

In this utopian workplace, your buddies are there for you, through thick and thin, as the saying goes. This means in a competitive, cutthroat environment, where every dollar counts and employers weigh performance in the context of potential staff reductions, your pals would have your back.

Got a problem with your boss? Don’t worry: Your peeps have wisdom to impart that will move you from the hot seat to a position where you’re cool as a cucumber—in a flash. Need time off but have no vacation time left? Your friends have a terrific solution, one the company will surely embrace.

If only.

The sad reality is that, while you may work with some people you genuinely call friends, few of these folks will watch out for your career the way they would their own.

Before you lament the loss of your imaginary posse, remember, this is the real world. Sue in accounting has three kids and a mortgage to pay, Bill in the tech department is in the throes of a divorce, and Samantha, well, she’s sweet, but face it, she doesn’t have a clue.

Does this mean you don’t have any real friends at work? Not necessarily. What it does mean is that you should be selective about your friends at work.

And being selective doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be friendly with your coworkers. But choosing what to share and with whom, well, that’s another matter.

Sample Scenarios

How do you decide where to draw the line?

Consider this possible situation. You’re one of two candidates for a big promotion. As life would have it, your mother who lives out of state requires emergency heart surgery and you have to take time off to be there.