Let’s face it: except for the brave few, the majority of us spend most of our waking hours at work. This is a daunting thought that has led me to consider how I can create the most enjoyable (read: tolerable) work environment possible. I have given this much thought, and over and over again, have come to the same conclusion: work friends are the key!
I use the term ‘work friends’ loosely, as it is important to keep healthy boundaries, (i.e. keep your hand close to your chest in professional situations), but I will say that it is just as important to have a handful of people around you during business hours who can act as your support system at the office.
What is a Work Ally?
These treasured souls are coworkers who you have been able to relate to on some level. They don’t have to be your best friends, but they should offer some solace from daily stress and support when you need it.
Finding Work Allies
It gets tougher to make friends as we get older for a host of reasons. It's especially tough at work because of protocols and necessary standards of professionalism. Sometimes, co-workers can be closed off, untrusting, or generally disinterested in interacting which each other. The key to seeking out a work ally is to pay attention. Do you love sports and have noticed that Erin in Accounting has a LeBron bobblehead on her desk? Are you an animal lover who has noticed that Jason in HR has posted pictures of his dogs in his cubicle? Seek out a middle ground to open the conversation up and see where things go.
I’ve often found that a quick jaunt to a nearby bar or café with my colleagues can cement the work friendship. We’ve laughed together, which ultimately has now brought us closer. If you see a potential work ally in one or more of your colleagues, invite them offsite for a coffee or an afterwork drink, and explore what kind of bridges you can build. Keep things light initially and let the friendship form organically, because being burned by someone we trusted too easily is never a good feeling.
One of the biggest mistakes I made early in my career was believing I was better friends with my work allies than I was, and oversharing personal details about my life, that in hindsight, I probably should have saved for my therapist. Remember that you are still at work, and you can never be too sure about the motives of those around you. This is not to say be paranoid, but perhaps be mindful about how much you share about yourself and what you're willing to listen to from others.
All in all, having a work ally can make a devastating week bearable, and turn a good day at work into a great one. It takes a bit of intention but well worth the effort.
Hi! I'm Tiffany Yarde, author of "How to Wine With Your Boss." I've got tons of opinions on humanity, economics, upward mobility, and good wine. Like what you've read? Please share on social media!
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