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  • The Difference between Work Friends and Real Friends

    With Friends photo from ShutterstockMany of you work at least 8 hours a day and see the same people every day. Therefore, it makes sense to become friends with your co-workers. However, have you ever thought whether your work friends are your real friends?

    There is a difference between your real friends, who will be there for you in your tough times or whom you enjoy inviting over to your house for dinner, and your work friends whom you hang out with for lunch or happy hour because you happen to be in the same building every day. It is harder for young professionals to make this distinction because many of us become friends in school. You go to the class, meet new people and make friends. Some of them may think it is similar in the office as well. Nevertheless, a work environment is much different than a school setting. It is more structured and has more rules. Only because you see the same people 40 hours a week don’t mean that they will be your new best friends. Of course, there may be occasions which you really find a true friend at work but generally, it is very rare. I recommend asking yourself a few questions to understand if this person is only a work friend or a true friend.

    • Do you hang out with your friend outside of the office and especially on the weekends?
    • Do you know your friend’s other friends outside of the office?
    • Did you meet your friend’s significant other?
    • If you and your friend are up for the same promotion and s/he ends up getting the promotion, would you be happy for her/him?
    • If your friend quit work, would you still meet with her/him?

    If you answered ‘yes’ to all of these questions, congratulations, you have found yourself a true friend at work. If not, it might be best for you to keep some distance with your work friends. Below you can find few tips.

    1. Set Boundaries: Don’t discuss your personal matters with your work friends.

    2. Don’t Gossip: Don’t gossip about others in the office especially about your boss or supervisor. You never know maybe this person seems like a friend to you but actually s/he is not!

    3. Don’t Take Everything Personal: Remember, this is an office and you have to cooperate with others to get things done. Therefore, if you have a problem with one of your work friends, it is best to solve this problem immediately.

    4. Be Professional: No matter what happens, you should always be polite and professional.


    Ceren Cubukcu is a top 5 bestselling author of Make Your American Dream A Reality: How to Find a Job as an International Student in the United States. She recently founded her consulting business to help more international students find jobs in the US in addition to her self-service digital event ticketing platform, Etkinlik Fabrikam (My Event Factory), to offer her webinars. You can follow her via Facebook or contact her via www.cerencubukcu.com/contact .

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    Posted in Personal Branding, Skill Development, Workplace Success
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    2 comments on “The Difference between Work Friends and Real Friends
    1. avatar
      Beth Hawkes says:

      It can be hard to separate real friends from work friends. Best advice-don’t get your emotional needs met at work.

    2. avatar
      Jason says:

      Been down this road before. While it is possible…I suppose…to have a real friend at work, in my 25 years in the workforce I have never seen it happen. These types of relationships are what I called “proximity friends”. These are pseudo-relationships that are forged out of repeated close proximity to each other, such that there is a common conduit that makes socializing an easy necessity and not something based on chemistry and desire. I speak from my own experience, but also as an observer of the same from others over the years. I have had (and have seen) people with whom I have shared 8 to 10 hours 5 days a week for over a decade, shared personal information with, gone thru divorces, deaths, births, personal triumphs, surgeries, hardships, etc. and then the person moves to a different building and it’s like I never existed. When one of us leaves the company, for example, I never hear from them again…even with so-called social media connections. After years of thinking there was a real friendship, now you will get the “hey, sorry for the delay in responding, I have just been so busy lately with the job and family” excuses. In other words, you don’t provide anything they need now since they have new work friends, so out you go. Women seem to fall victim to this most often, as they are naturally more social and tend to believe a relationship is more than it really is, but as a man I can confirm that it is not a gender specific phenomenon. I was previously the person who continuously tried to maintain connections with these faux-friends after we had lost our “proximity”, only to be ignored, stood up, etc. No more. At work I am friendly, but always professional. I don’t ask personal questions, share my personal details or get emotionally invested with anyone at the office. I save that exclusively for home and those who I know truly care about me. It’s a hard lesson, but I hope this testimony empowers someone out there to enjoy your work relationships, but be realistic and don’t expect anything from them.

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