Okay, looking at that headline, I immediately think of two things. If you are looking for advice on hooking up in the workplace, prepare to be disappointed. I want to discuss the pros and cons of the other kind of inter-office relationships in the future, but this week is about something (hopefully) much more wholesome.
A couple weeks ago, while talking about REFERENCES, I mentioned some techniques that young people should keep in mind when looking for references. One reader, MATTHEW KUEHLHORN, (and if you are looking for another great resource for accurate information presented in an entertaining way, Matthew’s blog is a great read), made the following comment:
This is an important topic and when I read your post I heard relationships.
I was torn on this idea. See, when I was younger I avoided mingling too much with my co-workers. I believed that bonding with co-workers would slow me down.
I was right.
I was right, but for the wrong reasons.
I was really good at what I did, and I (mistakenly, as it turns out) believed that people fell into one of two categories. Either they wanted to ride in my wake up the ladder, or they wanted to be there to see me get knocked down a couple pegs. Either way, they were more a nuisance than anything else. Years of this behavior and belief made for a prophecy that couldn’t help but come true.
Those who know me, or who have followed me for some time know that I’ve been fired a lot. I talk about it all the time. I’m not proud of it, but I want to help others avoid my experiences. Part of my problem was that I was an island wherever I worked. Looking back, there were plenty of instances where people tried to keep me from taking that one step too far. At the time, I wasn’t keen on listening to outside influences (sound familiar, teenagers??), so I just kept on taking those steps, right out the door.
Over the next few years, I’ve learned that mixing with co-workers isn’t always such a bad thing. Frequently, being friends with co-workers carries benefits (again, keep your mind out of the gutter, not those kinds of benefits!) for everyone involved. As long as you use (hold on a minute, I need this to be really big type)
you should be good. Here are a few other tips:
1. Being friends with someone shouldn’t be a transaction. Don’t try to triangulate who will best benefit you for the least cost. Some friends can be good for your career, but that shouldn’t be your primary objective.
2. Don’t leave your morals at home. If you wouldn’t be friends with someone outside of work, don’t bother being their friend at work. Of course, on the flip side, don’t avoid someone or don’t be unfriendly to someone just because they don’t seem your normal type. There is no reason to piss off someone who might have the ear of those with the power to fire you.
3. Maintain some barriers. Your work friends don’t have to know every problem you have in your life. Sure, they might be cool, and they might even help you out, but by burdening a co-worker with extremely personal information, you are asking them to carry a lot more than you realize. Now, if you have been friends for years, and you have built up a rapport where you truly feel that you can share, do so with caution.
4. Remember why you are all there. Sure, it’s great to have friends at work, but don’t let your friendship get in the way of doing your job. That’s a surefire way for you and your friend to have a lot more time together, which may mean you lose a friend in addition to a job.
5. If the worst happens, be a friend. There have been times where I have had to fire or be fired by “friends”. The worst part of those times when I fired friends was this sentence. “But Wil, I thought we were friends, dude, how could you fire your friend?” That was the point where I really knew who my friends were. A real friend wouldn’t have put me in a position where I had to fire them. A real friend wouldn’t have tried to use that friendship to save their own ass.
6. Understand that NOT EVERYONE IS GOING TO BE YOUR FRIEND! Some people aren’t into the friend thing, others are just slow to warm up, and there may even be some who don’t like you personally. Don’t force the issue.
Finally, friendship is something that takes some time earn. Don’t be that person who treats every new co-worker as your BFF. They aren’t, and you’re just being creepy.
Speaking of being an island,