They say that it's more difficult to make friends as an adult than as a kid, and perhaps there's a degree of truth there. But if there's one outlet adults have for making friends, it's the office. After all, when you see the same people day in and day out, it's easy to develop the sort of rapport that eventually morphs into its own sort of independent relationship.
That said, just because your work situation might lend to making friends doesn't mean it's the best idea. Here are a few benefits of befriending your colleagues -- and a few good reasons not to.
Pros of befriending your coworkers
Even if you're coming in with a reasonably healthy social network outside the office, befriending some colleagues has its advantages. For one thing, doing so might actually help your career. Think about it: If there's someone at the office who always has your back, you're more likely to look good and gain a stellar reputation. And if you have someone around who's willing to go the extra mile and help you with tasks because of your friendship, your personal performance is bound to improve.
Furthermore, your work friends can serve as a solid sounding board when you're struggling on the job, whether it's due to a demanding project or micromanaging boss. It's one thing to complain to a spouse or family member, but nobody really gets it like the people who actually work with you.
Finally, befriending coworkers can make for a more pleasant on-the-job experience. You're more likely to be motivated to get up and come to work if you know there are a few friendly faces waiting for you.
Cons of befriending your coworkers
But while making friends with colleagues has its perks, there are also some drawbacks to be aware of -- namely, that personal conflicts can translate into trouble at the office. Say you slighted a coworker over the course of your weekend plans, or got into an argument about something completely non-work-related. Despite the private nature of that conflict, it's likely to, at the very least, cause tension at work. And in a worst-case scenario, you could wind up in a situation where that coworker retaliates in a manner that hurts your career (say, by intentionally delivering a portion of a project you're managing late).
Getting too chummy with your colleagues might also cause other coworkers to get jealous. This, in turn, might impact your working relationship with those people.
Finally, beware the dangers of spending too much time chatting it up with your workplace buddies when you're supposed to actually be working. Though you could easily fall into this trap without developing outside-the-office relationships, the last thing you want is for your work friendships to cause you to slack off to the point where your boss notices.
If you are going to befriend your coworkers, aim to buddy up with people you don't necessarily work with closely on a regular basis. This way, if things turn sour, it's less likely to impact your day-to-day routine.
Furthermore, be careful about what you share with your coworkers, even those you consider your close friends. While it's OK to discuss your latest home improvement dilemma, stay away from potentially troublesome topics like money, your relationship with your boss, and your desire to find another job.
Finally, while it's one thing to get along well with your manager, and even enjoy the occasional nonworking lunch or discussion, it's generally not the best idea to turn your boss into your new best buddy. First, there's just a naturally uncomfortable balance of power at play that can make for a host of awkward situations down the line. Second, the last thing you want is for a personal matter to cause your job to suddenly become compromised. (And really, what's to stop your boss from making your life miserable if he gets ticked off about something you did or said on your own time?)
Clearly, befriending your coworkers is a pretty mixed bag. So if you are going to turn your colleagues into friends, be sure to proceed with a degree of caution.