We often hear stories of how things go wrong when you try and do something commercial with friends – sell them a car, buy a house off of them…extremes perhaps, but not unusual. The traditional advice is not to do that sort of thing with your mates because it can easily cause problems. When it comes to work, the same caution applies. Watch out for these points when you’re in the same company, department or even team as your friend.
- Establishing Boundaries
When workmates become friends, the appropriate boundaries emerge organically, but if you had a friendship with someone prior to working with them, it can be much more difficult to then establish boundaries in the workplace.
- Different Ways of Working
How do you choose to work in comparison to your friends? Your level of intensity and the ambition you have may not be matched by theirs. There may be a difference between when you start and finish work or how long you take for lunch. There’s nothing wrong with that. Just because you’re friends with someone doesn’t mean you have to live exactly the same life as them.
- Mixing the Professional and the Social
It’s really important to separate work and not work. Not work is social and happens outside of the work arena, where you’re able to let your hair down. Being able to identify the difference between going for a drink with your best friend and doing a performance appraisal with them is crucial if you’re to behave appropriately within each of those different situations.
- Managing Tricky Times
We treasure our friendships but they can get complicated in the workplace. Maybe we have to take the lead on a project that our friend is also working on. Maybe we have to get that friend to do something unpalatable. Management in this context can be challenging at the best of times but when a pal is involved things can get even more awkward. We may think to ourselves “ oh no, what do I do?” but if we’ve accepted in advance that there are going to be times like these, it’s easier to deal with them once they come along.
- Keeping Quiet
There may be things that you know within the context of work that you’re not able to divulge in a social context. Sometimes pressure, indirect or otherwise, can be subtly applied to try and get you to talk. You have to be stone-willed to resist the interrogation.
- Different Types of Work Relationship
There’s a difference between a boss-subordinate relationship and a peer-to-peer relationship when working with friends. The boss-subordinate relationship has some structure. It has some power and influence built into it. It is incredibly difficult to be the friend of a subordinate. At the peer-to-peer level that also is true and the social skills required to manoeuvre and cajole friends to do things in a collegiate way can be just as complex.
- Creative Tensions
Healthy disagreement within the workplace doesn’t have to mean the end of a friendship. Indeed, using that tension creatively can not only benefit the employer and boost your career but also make your friendship all the stronger for it.
About the Author
Simon North is the Founder of Position Ignition and the Career Ignition Club. Position Ignition is one of the UK’s leading career development and career planning companies. The Career Ignition Club offers a range of career support tools, advice and e-learning materials for its members. Follow Simon North and his team on twitter @PosIgnition and get more advice from him on their Career Advice Blog.