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Updated: March 18, 2024 Advice

101: Avoiding the pitfalls of workplace friendship

Do you have a work wife? How about an office bestie? These terms have become cultural norms. Let’s be honest: Work would be pretty boring if we didn’t have people we looked forward to seeing Monday through Friday. Yet in a place of business, special care must be taken not to become too casual or cliquey with colleagues. Outside of distraction, such partiality can create conflict that may jeopardize projects and even jobs. Rather than avoiding friends at work altogether, set good boundaries to have for yourself in the office.

Reconsider your language. The idea of a work spouse is amusing and light-hearted to some but offensive to others. In fact, more than half of Millennials surveyed for Newsweek in 2023 thought it was inappropriate. Perhaps avoid the term entirely and just know you can still have that one person in your corner, even if you simply refer to him or her by name only.

Don’t befriend your boss. It’s easier said than done when your boss is someone you enjoy working with, but Forbes contributor Julia Korn advises keeping your supervisor a casual acquaintance – and perhaps even more so if you are the boss. “There is an inherent power imbalance between you and your boss,” Korn writes. Most notably, your boss can fire you. Stick with your peer group when it comes to workplace friendship, even if you occasionally enjoy happy hour with your manager.

Set standards and adhere to them. Lattice, a human resources management platform, says friendship at work is mostly beneficial. But let most of your common ground stem from what brought you together to begin with: work. Be sure to spend most of your in-office conversations center relating to each other about work projects. Other topics, such as family life and hobbies, are OK to discuss after hours but should be limited to passing conversation during the workday.

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