by Luke Doyle
Making friends in the workplace can help develop your career and also help you become a great leader. It also has very little to do with influencing people.
That’s because a friendly disposition and sociable presence in the office can create a positive impact on yourself and those around you. Sure, others might grow to like you, agree with you, and support you on your way to the top, but more importantly, having friends at work is good for your attitude, productivity, and even health.
Having friends at work can boost job satisfaction by 50%, and the feeling that you’re being your best self by over 20%. This in turn makes you more engaged, determined, and ambitious. Research has shown that the hormonal-chemical effect of chatting informally in the workplace boosts productivity and lowers stress (hence the health benefits). And guess what? Having friends around you at work makes you more likely to feel you can bounce back from mistakes and take on big challenges.
So what does it take to make friends at work?
It all sounds wonderful in theory, but of course it’s not always that easy to make friends at work. In fact it can feel quite unnatural or forced, and it’s certainly a fine art to try to connect with people you meet formally without pushing too hard. Some leaders-in-the-making are actually pretty shy, and find it far easier to talk to people about work and business than to chill out and talk about leisure, world affairs, or whatever it is friends talk about. If that’s the case, it puts the onus on you to brave your workplace’s social functions. End-of-week drinks, company retreats, holiday parties, they can all be a challenge, but the truth is that people let their guard down at these events (including you) so it becomes easier to bond on a personal level – even if the event is just laying the groundwork and the friendship comes later.
For introverts who prefer not to get involved in big group events, there’s always the lunch break. Try inviting one or two people to grab lunch with you in an outdoor setting, and the dynamic will immediately be different as soon as you get back into the office.
Banish workplace rivalries
You may be reluctant to buddy up because you sense workplace rivalry, professional competition, or clique-ishness in the office, but a leader – even a potential leader – has no time for competition like this. Today’s leader-in-the-making brings people together.
Sharing and learning to let go of some opportunities in order to develop as a professional can help you to develop a warm and co-operative atmosphere around you at work. If in doubt, be positive, give advice, give help (when requested), give time. All of this can establish you as somebody who is open, approachable and trustworthy. People will start going out of their way to be the same back. Consider being a part of interdepartmental projects so you can meet more people and work alongside them in different dynamics. The people with who you’ll click will sometimes show up in the strangest of places.
The moment you click
Finally, there’s always social media. It can be a tough call on whether to add one person or another on social media, and in the end it comes down to instinct. It’s usually wisest not to add people on Facebook until you actually consider yourself friends, because you’re effectively asking for access to the other person’s life. Non-private Instagram and Twitter accounts are fair game, though you’ll need to use your judgement as to how much interaction is appropriate.
Your career is about more than rising to the top, it’s about enjoying that one-third of your waking life that you spend working. Thankfully, the two ambitions are not mutually exclusive. Open yourself up for workplace friendships, and career success should flourish in the wake of your new connection.
Photo: Alejandro Escamilla (Unsplash)