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Making friends with your coworkers might feel like mixing business and pleasure, but in the social media age it is becoming more and more common to blur the boundaries between social and work life. You may have heard horror stories about employees being fired because of social media updates that have been shared with coworkers and bosses, but according to the American Psychological Association, being friends with your coworkers has some very distinct benefits.

According to psychological research, being friends with your coworkers can increase job satisfaction, productivity and commitment, while decreasing stress and turnover (Azar). Working friendships can have positive effects because we tend to spend a lot more time with our coworkers than others, especially if we work full time, and our coworkers have the unique ability to understand our workplace frustrations and concerns. If you’re concerned about how to manage workplace friendships, or are wondering if you should take the plunge and make friends with your boss, here’s what you need to know to protect your job and benefit from workplace friendships.

Friends Provide Support at Work

People’s closest friendships are formed with coworkers because of the amount of time that coworkers spend together, and this becomes even truer if the work environment is stressful (“Co-Workers Are Your Closest Friends”). Having a community of colleagues that can support you through difficulties and stress can help you to be a more valuable employee.

Receiving Constructive Criticism

While many friends may feel uncomfortable adequately critiquing a friend’s work, these QA and collaboration situations also provide a great opportunity for improvement if your critic is a friend. A friend will understand your strengths and weaknesses, and be more disposed to encouragement as well as criticism, helping you to generally improve. Additionally, friends can more easily communicate with each other and know each other’s working styles, fostering more understanding and improvement.

Balancing Life and Work

While having friends at work that you spend social time with might feel like a life/work imbalance, there is also the potential to build very strong friendships and relationships. Coworkers can be friends without always talking about work, so do not avoid friendships simply because you are wary of having work conversations socially. However, you should generally be careful of what you say, depending on your level of friendship, so as not to create any office tensions with other workers.

Managing Your Social Media Accounts

When becoming friends with work colleagues, it is important to make sure that you effectively manage your social media presence. Using Facebook to talk about work negatively is generally a bad idea in this day and age, but becomes particularly so when you are friends with coworkers. Utilize Facebook’s privacy settings to keep certain information private, and be careful about what you say on social media in general.

Although research suggests that making friends with coworkers is a good idea in terms of morale and productivity, it does cause problems with favoritism, and can be damaging if you do not have anything common with your coworkers. However, if you are working with the same people for 40 hours a week, being friendly can go a long way and can help everyone to feel more comfortable. So, if you’re holding off making friends at your job, remember that it can help you to be a better employee, and ultimately can lead to lifelong friendships.

Sources

Azar, Beth. “Friends and Co-Workers.” American Psychological Association. http://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2012/01/relationships.aspx. (7 June, 2013).

Blank, Chris. “The Disadvantages of Being Friends With Bosses and Co-Workers.” Chron. http://work.chron.com/disadvantages-being-friends-bosses-coworkers-6252.html. (7 June, 2013).

“Why Your Co-Workers Are Your Closest Friends.” News.com.au. http://www.news.com.au/business/worklife/why-your-co-workers-are-your-closest-friends/story-e6frfm9r-1226645208262 (7 June, 2013).