Can You Be BFFs with Your Work Col­league?

Form­ing close re­la­tion­ships with co-work­ers may make the day more fun – but can it be detri­men­tal to your ca­reer?

Cosmopolitan (South Africa) - - WORK - BY HE­LEN WAL­LACE

Afriend of a friend told me re­cently about an offŠice friend­ship that went hor­ri­bly wrong. It ended with her and her work wife not speak­ing and send­ing rip­ples of awk­ward­ness through­out the oŠffice – all be­cause one had re­layed gos­sip about their man­ager to their su­pe­ri­ors and word got around. This, in turn, led to ten­sion not just be­tween the for­mer friends but be­tween the man­ager and the be­trayed ‘gos­sipee’ as well. Work be­came con­sid­er­ably less fun af­ter that.

Busi­ness and plea­sure

We spend most of our adult wak­ing life at our job. This can be a de­press­ing thought, made bear­able by hav­ing peo­ple at the offŠice who you look for­ward to see­ing. Re­la­tion­ships will in­evitably form. ‘One of the most pow­er­ful hu­man needs is to feel valu­able and val­ued,’ says or­gan­i­sa­tional psy­chol­o­gist Leigh John­stone. ‘To feel sig­nif•icant or valu­able, we are driven by a need to bond. When we can­not bond with oth­ers, we feel dis­con­nected, which can re­sult in high lev­els of stress.’

Not only can a work bestie en­sure that your stress is lim­ited to the job at hand, they can also be a con•fi­dant with whom you share prob­lems and cel­e­brate vic­to­ries. From a strate­gic point, build­ing strong re­la­tion­ships with col­leagues can help you get ahead in your ca­reer. It can be a win-win. But, since we’re hu­man, things are bound to be­come tense or un­com­fort­able at some point and, if not han­dled with pro­fes­sion­al­ism, take a turn for the worse. Here’s how to han­dle seven work­place sit­u­a­tions that can strain re­la­tion­ships like a grown-ass woman, so your en­vi­ron­ment re­mains har­mo­nious.

1 You „ind out you and your work wife are go­ing for the same pro­mo­tion

‘Speak to her,’ says HR di­rec­tor Bran­don Gill­ham. ‘Be open about your in­ter­est in the op­por­tu­nity – but make a pact that who­ever gets the pro­mo­tion will foot the bill for a shared ex­pe­ri­ence for you both to en­joy. If you get the pro­mo­tion, you’ll get the sat­is­fac­tion of the ex­pe­ri­ence, the in­crease and the sta­tus – and you’ll be able to re­mind your bestie she still matters. If she gets the pro­mo­tion, it might sting – but you’ll have re­tained a strate­gi­cally placed ally at the com­pany, who will be root­ing for you.’ Ge­nius!

2 Your work bestie be­trayed your trust by telling your boss you had a rant about them

‘ The only way to deal with this is to speak di­rectly to your col­league and ask for her side of the story,’ says Gill­ham. ‘Book a pri­vate meet­ing room (pub­lic at­tacks and hair-pulling won’t re­solve any­thing), and tell her how she’s hurt you. Be spe­cific about your ex­pec­ta­tions for re­build­ing trust. You may have to do dam­age con­trol with your man­ager, too – so be hon­est, ad­mit you made a mis­take, ac­cept responsibility and move on. Most man­agers will see it as a strength if you’re able to ad­mit mis­takes and learn from them, so there’s a po­ten­tial up­side here.’

3 Your favourite col­league tells you she got a raise – but you didn’t

‘Your ini­tial re­ac­tion could be “un­fair!”, but think of the big­ger pic­ture,’ says Gill­ham. ‘Con­grat­u­late her – then find a place where no­body can hear you scream. Once you’ve calmed down, think things through. If you’re not get­ting an in­crease, ask your­self what you need to do more or less of to put your­self in line for one.

‘You have a pow­er­ful tool to push your brand and in­flu­ence de­ci­sion-mak­ers within the or­gan­i­sa­tion – but if you man­age it poorly, you could be com­mit­ting ca­reer sui­cide’

If you lis­tened to your col­league as she was gush­ing, you may have picked up clues about what to in­cor­po­rate into your ca­reer strat­egy. Be smart: use the suc­cess­ful tac­tics of oth­ers to max­imise your op­por­tu­ni­ties.’ Word.

4 Your boss started fol­low­ing you on In­sta

Some­one with power and sta­tus has iden­ti­fied you as in­ter­est­ing, value-ad­ding or in­spir­ing. Cel­e­brate! But there is a down­side: ‘You’ll have to ex­er­cise more re­straint about the top­ics you post or com­ment on,’ warns Gill­ham. ‘Drunken rants and post-club­bing pic­tures will have to stop. If your boss has ac­cess to this in­for­ma­tion, as­sume that every­body around the board­room table does too. You have a pow­er­ful tool to push your brand and in­flu­ence de­ci­sion-mak­ers within the or­gan­i­sa­tion – but if you man­age it poorly, you could be com­mit­ting ca­reer sui­cide.’

5 Your work wife isn’t pulling her weight. Should you con­front her – or tell the boss?

‘ Al­ways dis­cuss con­cerns with her first,’ says Gill­ham. ‘ There may be a per­sonal is­sue that’s con­tribut­ing to her poor per­for­mance. Hav­ing a convo will achieve two things: first, she’ll know you’re aware that she’s slack­ing off; se­cond, you’ll be do­ing what besties do for each other – ask­ing, en­gag­ing and be­ing sup­port­ive. If your man­ager asks you di­rectly for an opin­ion, don’t be drawn in. En­cour­age them to ap­proach your friend di­rectly. If you con­fide in the boss, you’ll be la­belled an un­trust­wor­thy back-stab­ber, and that rep will see you go­ing nowhere fast.’

6 You’re in charge of af­ter-work drinks. Should you in­clude the boss?

‘Def­i­nitely,’ says Gill­ham. ‘Give them an op­por­tu­nity to de­cline, rather than leav­ing them won­der­ing why they didn’t get an invite. This al­lows you to con­nect so­cially, which is likely to strengthen the re­la­tion­ship. Just re­mem­ber not to be the one car­ried to your Uber af­ter three too many shoot­ers. If you want to cut loose and don’t want author­ity fig­ures around, make ar­range­ments out­side of of­fice hours.’

7 You have a ma­jor crush on some­one at work. Is it okay to date them?

‘When you spend so much time with some­one, you may de­velop feel­ings for them,’ says Gill­ham. ‘But dat­ing at work can lead to messy break-ups that get no­ticed by de­ci­sion-mak­ers in the busi­ness. You want them to pay at­ten­tion to the great job you’re do­ing, not your in­abil­ity to sep­a­rate work and play.’ If you’re look­ing for love, there’s an app for that!

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