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Your office colleague is not your friend


After some years working in different organizations, I have come to realize that many professionals make the mistake of confusing colleagues for friends. Just because professionalism calls for being friendly with everyone, it doesn't mean that everyone is your friend. Colleagues are wonderful people. In fact, it’s very okay to make friends at the work place, but most of us don’t know how to set boundaries as far as colleague-to-colleague relationships are concerned. Going to lunch, exchanging holiday greetings and sharing jokes with colleagues does not qualify them to be your best friends. The truth of the matter is; there are no real friends at work!

It’s very important to realize that, although colleagues tend to have lots of things and interests in common, only collegiality and not friendship exists in the work place. It’s very obvious that the main goal of most people at work is progress. By increasing their visibility and gaining the right exposure, they will be in a position where they become visible to the relevant players in the organization. This will position them to win promotions and other favors with the supervisors. While some colleagues use legitimate and acceptable strategies to achieve such goals, others do it by any means possible; including using you as a stepping stone. For that reason, being friends with such colleagues will only mean more harm than good to you.

It’s essential also to note that there is a big difference between working with friends and making friends with the people you work with. Given the fact that it’s not possible to pick your colleagues the same way you pick your friends or job, you should not at any given time make a mistake of over estimating the friendship of your colleague at work. The colleagues at work might be friendly and jovial, but that doesn’t guarantee a firm friendship for life.  But this doesn’t mean that you should stop socializing at the work place or be guarded and unreasonable in the work place. You should, however, be very clear and conscious about all the actions you take and the interactions you have at work. Building and developing relationships at work is not a social exercise. It’s only meant to help you achieve your professional and business goals. So in your effort to love your job and your colleagues don’t expect as much from them as you would from your friends.

Since you don’t get to choose your colleagues, you just have to make the best of it. The best way to avoid a toxic workplace friendship that could potentially derail your career is to be sure to keep your distance and learn to identify the tell-tale signs of the most poisonous personality types such as the betrayers, critics, backbiters, big mouths the rival the bad influence and the “under miner.” This will not only help in avoiding sour workplace relations but also strained and tense work environment. Also, you need always to act with integrity irrespective of what your colleagues think and you should at no one particular time, get emotional with them. If they have disappointed you, just take it as an opportunity to help you know how they think and operate. That way, you will be smarter about how to interact with them, and you will enjoy spending your days at your workplace.

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