How to have friends at work without risking your career goals

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For a lot of us, having coworkers we get along with can provide a great working environment, or even make an awful one tolerable. We spend the majority of our working lives in the office surrounded by these people, and it’s only natural (for most of us) to bond with our colleagues over time.

Of course, being BFFs with your colleague can have its disadvantages, especially when it comes to job performance; it doesn’t always pay to be too friendly in the working world. If you’re too nice, some people are going to step on you to get ahead, or you might not speak up if you feel like you’re being treated unfairly and not getting due credit. If the relationship turns sour through too many disagreements or fights, you may burn bridges you’ll regret.

There are many obvious don’t’s in the world of office friendships, like asking a colleague to cover you because you’re hungover, or sharing confidential information. When it comes to conversation topics, delving too deep into your personal life can also be off-putting. At the end of the day, it’s all about navigating the waters and finding that perfect balance.

Here are 5 handy tips or guidelines for fostering and managing office friendships:

#1 Have lunch together
First off, getting yourself some work friends requires effort! Introverts might not be into this tip, but lunch is a crucial break in the middle of the day where people get to blow off some steam and is pretty much the best time for bonding with colleagues (unless you hate all the people you work with and think they aren’t worth your time ‒ why are you reading this again?).

#2 Keep personal work ambitions to yourself
One of the best ways to maintain good work relationships is actually discussing non-work-related things. Also, sharing your personal career goals with colleagues might spark a side of competitiveness you don’t really want to deal with. Sounds too tricky? Just remember that warmth and skill are the two primary qualities you want to demonstrate.

#3 Avoid expecting too much out of the friendship
Your co-workers should be people who are willing to cover you on a sick day, but not people you’d ask to look after your pet when you go away on holiday. You also want your colleagues to feel like they can approach you when they need help, but not for everything.

#4 Show your coworkers that you respect their ideas
Even if you might not like a suggestion, it’s best to show them that you’ve considered it and if possible let them know why it might not work. Be tactful and respectful instead of shutting them down. It’s all about your attitude.

#5 Make small talk with different people
There’s nothing worse than only having one friend in the office. Like putting all your eggs in one basket, it puts you at the biggest disadvantage. What if that person is on leave, or moves on to a different company? Talk to other people around you, even those you don’t work with directly. A little goes a long way to feeling included at work. Positive vibes, people!

Need help with more issues at work? Here are five unexpected office crises and how you should deal with them!