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Your colleagues are not your friends

This topic is quite tricky. I am well aware. We are not going to sweep it under the carpet, though. You might be thinking: "Ruth, we are getting deep now." Yes, we are. Let me break it down for you.

When you start a new job it can be daunting. However, soon enough, friendly faces start to appear and they guide you through your first few days at work. Some of these people become colleagues that you find yourself being close to.

You might even feel indebted to them for the kindness they had shown you as you settled down in your new role. It is easy to feel that friendships can flourish out of this, but there are some dangers you need to be made aware of:

CONFLICT AND CHAOS - It is absolutely normal for conflict to ensue in the workplace. What is key is how the conflict is resolved. When you are friends with the colleague you are in conflict with, navigating through that conflict may prove difficult. You may worry about hurting their feelings, or seeing the friendship come to an end. You may even end up not addressing the issue in order to save the friendship, and this is not healthy for your working relationship.

POWER BATTLES - Promotions are amazing, but can be a tricky thing to celebrate with your colleagues when you have been promoted to a managerial position and they report to you. Depending on the nature of the friendship, it may be difficult for them to respect you as a leader if you never took each other seriously in your roles to begin with. The work relationship may become strained when respect is lost.

OVERSHARING - Sharing something personal with a colleague may bring you a level of comfort. This may even open a safe space for the both of you to share your personal lives, goals, stories and achievements. The other side to this is expressing how you feel about issues within the workplace - it could be about another colleague or manager. This can be dangerous because your colleague may mentally store what you have said to them in confidence, and use it against you at a later stage.

COVERING UP FOR EACH OTHER - There may be times when a colleague cannot complete a task, and may ask you to cover for them. There may also be times when they may have had a bit too much to drink the night before and cannot make the 8am meeting. Since you do not want them to get into trouble, you may cover for them. Your colleague may make this a habit which may put you in a tough position, and result in the loss of professionalism.

There are a myriad of other reasons, but these four will suffice for now. Am I saying that friendships within the work place are evil? Not at all. Some beautiful friendships have flourished within the workplace. This is more about being vigilant and understanding the possible dangers that friendships in the workplace may cause.

Here are some helpful tips:

DO NOT GOSSIP - Spilling the tea is enticing and exciting, especially when the drama does not involve you. It will end in tears, though - maybe not for you, but for someone else. Refrain from gossiping. Remember that it contributes negatively to the culture of the workplace and it destroys the trust among colleagues. Read more on this here.

BOUNDARIES - It's great to share personal news, and its even better to share some videos and pictures from an event that you have attended. However, exercise discernment when it comes to how much you share about your personal life. Limit how often you spend time with colleagues after-hours and most importantly, what you talk about. I would even go as far as suggesting that you limit how much access they have to your social media accounts. Use your discretion here. Boundaries are healthy and they protect YOU.

REMAIN FRIENDLY - Nobody dialed "Dr Evil". I am not saying you have to be enemies with your colleagues. Always maintain respect in the workplace and be friendly. Just because you are not oversharing about your life (that no one cares about anyway), does not mean you have to be disrespectful and unfriendly. Always strive to be friendly and respectful.

In summary, in case you did not catch it earlier, in no way am I saying that colleagues can never be your friends. Exercise discernment in the workplace because not everyone at work is your friend and not everyone is looking out for you the way you are for them. Be wise. Take your time in getting to know someone before you dub them a "friend".


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